What are the Elements of a Los Angeles Burglary Charge?

California Penal Code §459 makes it unlawful for any person who enters a dwelling or structure with the intent to “commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary”.

Two major elements must be met for any person to be convicted of a burglary charge. The Prosecutor must prove to the Court that the person being charged is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of both.

It must be proven that 1) the person entered a dwelling or structure and 2) they had the intent to commit theft of burglary. The prosecutors prove their case by using evidence such as witness testimony, evidence of break ins, DNA and other genetic evidence as well as observations of the scene after the fact.

Proving that a person entered a dwelling or structure is difficult, especially when a powerful defense is available. The government must prove that a lock was picked, a window was broken in, or there were footprints matching the person charged inside the structure. The definition of structure is very broad, and it will include any kind of structure such as a home, business, vessel, tent or even a warehouse.
They must show that there is strong evidence that the person being charged had broken and entered into the structure.

Demonstrating that the person had the intent to commit theft or burglary is even more difficult. This is a much harder element to provide because it goes to the mind of the person, or their mens rea. The government will use observations and other evidence to show the element. For example, if the person came with a crow bar, and gloves on, and perhaps bags for stolen things, there is a strong case to be established for the intent to commit a crime.

Let’s consider two scenarios. Scenario A involves David who comes to a store after hours with a crow bar and an empty bag. He uses the crow bar to break the door latch and enters putting everything he sees into a bag. The silent alarm is triggered and the cops arrive and arrest David. There is a strong case for prosecution because David had a crow bar, he used it to enter the building and did, and then was in the act of putting things into the bag which indicates a clear intent to steal the items.

In comparison, Scenario B involves Dan who needs to borrow some DVD’s. He goes to his friend’s house who knows he comes into his house all the time when he is not home. His friend also keeps a back window open that Dan knows about. Dan crawls in through the window and grabs a few dvd’s and leaves, fully intending to return them when he is done. The friend does not mind that Dan does this. By strict facts, this could be a case for burglary because Dan entered a dwelling and took some items that were not his. There is breaking and entering but there is a good defense for intent. Dan did not intend to commit a crime, he was borrowing a movie from a friend, especially because the friend had given him consent.

Burglary is a very serious charge and can result in harsh consequences if a person is convicted. Give yourself the best fighting chance and hire an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney to defend you.