Auto burglary is covered under California Penal Code Section 459. It's commonly known as car burglary or vehicle burglary. It's considered a 2nd degree burglary and is the act of illegally entering a vehicle with the intent to commit petty theft or grand theft.
It's not the same charge as California Penal Code Section 487(d), which is grand theft auto because the criminal intent involved with a vehicle burglary is to steal property inside the vehicle, not the vehicle itself. These types of criminal charges are often compounded by damages that were caused to the vehicle in order to gain entry.
In many cases, this will result in an additional charge of vandalism. In basic terms, the crime of auto burglary is entering any vehicle, using forced entry, with the specific intent to commit grand or petty larceny, or a felony offense. A “vehicle” includes cars, trucks, or motorcycles. It's important to note here that there must be evidence of a forced entry before it's considered an auto burglary offense.
A common example of auto burglary in Los Angeles County includes a situation where someone breaks a car window in order to steal a car stereo. Another example is a situation where someone breaks's into the trunk of a car to commit a theft or felony inside. What is considered a “locked” vehicle for purposes of an auto burglary crime?
A vehicle is considered locked if it has interlinking parts that would require the use of force to break the seal to gain entry inside. Even if a vehicle has a defect that prevents it from locking properly, if it has lockable doors, it is legally considered “locked” for the purpose of pursuing a prosecution for auto burglary.
If you have been accused of auto burglary, you should consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. Our law firm has a track record of success defending clients against any type of burglary charges in all Los Angeles County criminal courts.
For example, In Glendale Superior Court, our client was charged with felony burglary while on probation for felony commercial burglary and grant theft. After an early disposition conference, an offer of 16 months in a California state prison was changed to 2 years special sentencing with 3 years formal probation and 300 hours of community service. The probation violation was revoked and reinstated. Now that we have examined a basic overview of auto burglary, let's take a closer look at the legal definition, legal penalties, and defenses below:
California Penal Code Section 459 – Auto Burglary
Under California Penal Code Section 459, auto burglary is legally defined as follows:
Every person who enters any vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they must be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, the following “elements of the crime:”
- You entered a locked vehicle
- You had the intent to commit a theft or felony inside the vehicle
It's important to note that even if you were unable to successfully steal anything inside the vehicle or commit a felony after entering the vehicle, you could still be found guilty, if it can be proven you had the intent to do so.
Under the California Penal Code Section 487, grand larceny (theft) is committed when the money or personal property taken exceeds $950. Grand theft charges will be filed if you steal the vehicle.
If you enter a vehicle with the specific intent to steal it, you could be charged with grand theft and auto burglary. Under the California Penal Code Section 490, petty larceny (theft) is committed when the money or personal property taken in under $950.
Related Auto Burglary Offenses
California Penal Code Section 663 - Attempted Burglary. If you don't commit all the elements of the crime for burglary charges, you could still face criminal charges for attempted burglary, if criminal attempt can be proven. For example, you attempted to enter a locked vehicle, but were unable after the car alarm was set off.
California Vehicle Code 10852 - Tampering with a Vehicle. You could face criminal charges of tampering with a vehicle if you willfully tamper with a vehicle or the contents, or break or remove any part of the vehicle.
Legal Penalties for Auto Burglary
Automobile burglary is a known as a “wobbler” offense. This means the Los Angeles County prosecutor has the discretion on whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony crime. The factors they consider in making this decision include your criminal history and the severity of the offense. Fortunately, if you are convicted of a felony crime, you might be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to California Penal Code Section 17(b) after successful completion of probation.
If you are convicted of second degree burglary as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail, fines, restitution, protective order, and probation.
However, if you are convicted of felony second degree burglary, you could be sentenced to 16 months to 3 years in a California state prison, fines and restitution, stay away protective order, and formal supervised probation. Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our office for more detailed information.
Legal Defenses for Auto Burglary
If you have been accused of auto burglary, our criminal defense attorneys could use a variety of legal strategies on your behalf. These potential legal defenses include:
No intent - The Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove you had a specific intent to commit a theft crime or other felony. In some cases, our lawyers might be able to prove there was no intent to commit the auto burglary offense. Maybe the car door was not locked, or the windows were left open, or there was no forced entry.
False identification – In some cases, our lawyers might be able to prove you were falsely identified as the person who committed this crime. It's not uncommon for a witness to falsely identify someone, especially during night time hours.
Insufficient evidence – Depending on the circumstances, our criminal lawyers might be able to successfully challenge the prosecutor's evidence against you in your auto burglary case. For example, we might be able to show inconsistencies or weaknesses in their evidence. If we can create reasonable doubt, there is chance to avoid a conviction.
Contact our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you are under criminal investigation, or already charged with auto burglary, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP. A conviction for a burglary offense will have a serious impact on your personal and profession life.
Our attorneys have decades of combined experience and know how the prosecutor will attempt to build a case against you to secure a conviction. The first step is to give us a call and let us review the specific details to start planning a strong defense plan. We offer a free immediate reply. Contact us at 877-781-1570.