San Diego Burglary Attorney

People often associate a burglar as someone who steals, but when it comes to burglary in California, there is a specific definition of what constitutes the charge and subsequent conviction. Burglary occurs when a person enters a building, vessel, or aircraft with the intent to steal or commit a felony once inside, such as assault, murder, rape or arson. A person can be charged and convicted of burglary under California Penal Code 459, even if that person didn’t steal anything.

Additionally, a person doesn’t have to “break” into a house with force to be charged with burglary under PC 459, but merely has to “enter.” This can mean simply walking through an unlocked door. Burglary crimes often occur in combination with other felony crimes.

In order for a person to be convicted of burglary, the prosecution must prove that you entered a building with the intent to steal or commit a felony. Punishments, as a result of a burglary conviction, can equal expensive fines and harsh jail sentences. You will want an experienced burglary defense attorney to represent you.

Stephen Cline has dedicated his legal career to handling all types of criminal defense cases. He has earned a reputation for aggressively representing clients in San Diego for more than two decades and knows what’s at stake if you’ve been charged with a burglary crime.

If you or a loved one has been charged with burglary in San Diego, contact us today at (619) 235-5638 or fill out the free case evaluation form to get your questions answered.

First-Degree and Second-Degree Burglary PC 459 in California

In the state of California, a burglary charge falls under one of two categories: first degree and second degree. First-degree burglary is when a person enters a residence with the intent to commit a felony. First-degree burglary is always charged as a felony and counts as a strike as applied to California’s Three Strikes sentencing law.

Second-degree burglary differs in that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. Second-degree burglary applies when a person enters any other type of structure, besides a residence, as listed in Penal Code 459. Whether a person is charged with first- or second-degree burglary is dependent on factors of the offense, including where the crime took place and if the person has a criminal record or is on probation. A second-degree burglary or “commercial burglary” charge does not count as a strike under California law.

Punishment and Sentencing for Burglary in CA

If you are convicted of first-degree burglary in San Diego, you can face a jail sentence of up to six years. The punishment for burglary in the second-degree consists of prison time for up to three years.

The Three Strikes Law also is taken into account when it comes to sentencing for burglary in the state of California. Since first-degree burglary counts as a strike, if a person then commits a second felony in the future, the prison sentence doubles and life in prison is possible on a third strike.

Second-degree burglary carries a prison sentence of up to three years with the possibility of added probation. Although it does not count as a strike, you still want a defense attorney who is well-versed in these types of cases to give you the best chance at a more favorable verdict and lesser sentence.

A statute of limitations applies to burglary. In California, authorities typically have three years to bring a felony burglary case and one year to charge someone with misdemeanor burglary, but there are many other factors that may influence this.

Best Defenses for California Burglary

In order for you to be convicted of a burglary crime, the prosecutor has to supply burden of proof showing that a felony was committed and that there was intent behind the crime. Failure to provide this beyond a reasonable doubt can be terms for a case dismissal.

Additionally, legal defenses are built around potential improper handling of a case by law enforcement and illustrating a violation of a person’s legal rights. Potential legal defenses for burglary in California may include:

Failure to Read Miranda Rights

By law, you have the right to remain silent as to not incriminate yourself. Police and other arresting authorities must read your Miranda rights and cannot retrieve evidence pertaining to the case by any kind of improper questioning. Any evidence produced as a result of this type of conduct may be deemed inadmissible in court.

Illegal Search and Seizure

There must be probable cause for a police officer to obtain a warrant to search your property for evidence. Violation of proper search and seizure proceedings may mean the evidence was illegally obtained and not valid for court proceedings held against you.


In an instance where there is question of whether you were present at the scene of the crime at the time it occurred, an alibi may be used. A defense attorney may call on a person who can testify to their knowledge that you were in a place other than the crime scene when the burglary occurred.

These are just a few examples of the types of defenses available to an attorney. However, since each case has its own specific details, every legal defense is unique to the reported charge. You want an attorney who has the investigative and courtroom skills necessary to explore all potential options of defense and will choose the best strategy to represent you.

Possession of Burglar’s Tools

Intent is an important factor in being charged with a burglary crime. Possession of a burglar’s tool, such as a crowbar, screwdriver, or pliers, is often looked at as a misdemeanor, but a person can be charged if in possession of tools to commit burglary with the intention of using the tools for that purpose.

Since tools that can be used in a burglary crime can be used for non-criminal purposes, it is up to the prosecution to show that there was intent to commit burglary by solely being in possession of such tools. Without intent, there can’t be a dedicated charge.

Punishment for conviction of this type of crime can result in up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

How Burglary Differs from Theft

Burglary crimes involve a person specifically entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony. The action of entering a building and the intention are the two key factors of this type of charge.

Theft, on the other hand, is a crime that serves as an umbrella to a list of other types of crimes that could occur at the same time as a burglary crime, but is not inclusive of it.

Examples of theft crimes include:

  • Auto theft
  • Fraud
  • Grand theft/petty theft
  • Identity theft
  • Larceny
  • Robbery

The Law Offices of Stephen Cline handles all criminal defense cases and can assist if you have been charged with more than one crime. When charges are filed in court, you will want an attorney to file motions on your behalf, call relevant witnesses and appear for you at hearings. In short, having a legal advocate on your side can be a huge benefit to you as your case goes through the court system.

Why Hire a San Diego Burglary Attorney

Hiring a private attorney who has experience with different areas of criminal law is important based on the level of investigation and strategy that goes into preparing the defense for these types of cases.

How California law applies to the details of a case is crucial to the defense strategy of a burglary attorney. Being charged with a burglary crime can be a life changing event. A conviction can mean hundreds of dollars in fees as well as time spent in prison. You want a legal representative on your side who has the legal knowledge and San Diego court experience necessary to fight for a favorable verdict.

Our law firm works hard to achieve successful verdicts for our clients. Criminal defense attorney Stephen Cline has been a prominent figure in the San Diego legal community for the past 20-plus years. He is known for his dedicated approach and aggressive tactics to find the best possible resolution for the cases he handles.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Cline today if you have been charged with burglary in San Diego by calling (619) 235-5638 or filling out the form on this page. We will help you through the legal process and make sure your case receive the attention it deserves.