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PC 459 Attorney

Penal codes in California serve as a foundational pillar to foster a society that is informed and just. They establish legal parameters for any alleged criminal conduct and what punishments are appropriate for anyone found guilty in a court of law. There are a ton of different penal codes that all deal with different criminal activity and are systematically classified and coded to keep everyone on the same page.

PC 459 falls under the California Penal Code. It mostly pertains to any instances of burglary. It defines burglary as any intentional act of entering a structure and committing theft. If any other felonies are also committed after breaking in and entering, they also fall under PC 459. This penal code defines “structures” as residential property, business, or an enclosed space owned by someone else. If the structure was inhabited at the time of the offense, the severity of the offense is increased.

Understanding the specifics of PC 459 keeps local Californians safe and protected. It can help to deter potential burglars from actually committing the crime. It also safeguards anyone who has been inaccurately accused of violating the code, giving criminal defense attorneys a verified resource of law to protect their clients.

Different Types of Crimes Under PC 459 Burglary

The act of burglary under PC 459 is defined as entering any structure they do not own with the intent of committing theft or another felony. The reason why burglary has so many nuances is that different alleged criminals have different intentions for their entry. This makes the process of collecting evidence and proving intention have a huge influence on the final outcome of a case.

There are two different subcategories of a classic “burglary” crime:

  1. Residential Burglary: When someone illegally enters a property that they do not own and is inhabited by someone else, that is classified as a residential burglary. These types of burglaries can be met with some fierce punishments, as the legal system considers the risk to the safety and well-being of the victim in these scenarios to be high. Residential burglaries are typically considered a felony of the first degree. It would be the responsibility of the prosecution to convince a jury that the individual went into the structure with the intent to commit theft.
  2. Commercial Burglary: When a structure that is owned to operate a business and has no full-time residents has been robbed, it is classified as a commercial burglary under the second degree. These cases can become more complicated because some commercial buildings are open to the public at certain times during the day. An investigation into the individual’s permission to enter the business and what events occurred is necessary to understand if an actual commercial burglary occurred.
Auto Burglary

Another significant category of crime under PC 459 is auto burglaries. These crimes are when someone breaks into a locked vehicle they do not own with the intention of stealing the belongings of someone else. Because these crimes can be mobile in nature and sometimes involve someone leaving behind evidence in a vehicle, there are differences to understand compared to your traditional home burglary.

A prosecutor's responsibility in an auto burglary case is to prove a vehicle was entered unlawfully with the intent to steal. The value of the vehicle and any items stolen will play a role in how severe a final punishment could be if they are successful. However, it takes a ton of evidence to make a compelling case. Surveillance footage, witness statements, and forensic evidence will all be investigated in an attempt to piece the crime together in court. Any holes in the argument or illegally collected evidence will favor the defendant.

Other Related Crimes

There are other crimes within PC 459 that are related to burglary but are classified on their own. Some include:

Possession of burglary tools: Simply owning common burglary tools such as lock picks or crowbars will not get you in any trouble. However, if a connection can be made between your ownership of those items with an intent to use them for illegal entry, it could favor a guilty verdict. The defendant’s attorney will be responsible for showing the court what legitimate reason their client has for owning the tools that do not relate to the alleged incident.

For example, John Doe is pulled over one night and is found to have lock picks and a crowbar in his trunk. Further investigation reveals text messages that discuss details of a crime. A criminal defense attorney can argue that the tools found in their client’s trunk are related to their profession and that the text messages were taken out of context.

Attempted burglary: You don’t have to actually commit the crime to still face some form of punishment. If someone merely attempts to break in somewhere they shouldn’t be, they could face charges of attempted burglary if the prosecution is able to make the case.

For example, security footage reveals Jane Doe trying to force open a window but flees when she hears the sound of sirens. She did not enter the house, but a prosecutor would make the case that she would have if the sirens had not gone off. It would be up to the defense attorney to explain why Jane Doe had the right to be on that property and provide another explanation as to why she is on camera near the window.

Conspiracy to commit burglary: If someone is found to be planning or conspiring with others to commit burglary, it is also considered a criminal act under penal code 459. These crimes can be difficult to prove, as they often involve an analysis of digital communications between several people, an understanding of different relationships, and how involved each alleged conspirator was.

Take, for instance, John and Jane Doe, who have recently been arrested after an online chat was discovered where they have discussed robbing a local jewelry store. The prosecution must be able to leverage that chat log to decipher what type of relationship exists between John and Jane and that their conversation was an authentic plan to commit a crime. The defense could argue that the chats were simply a joke and have been taken out of proportion.

Is PC 459 a Felony or Misdemeanor?

A crime under PC 459 could be classified as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of what is proven in court.

Crimes under PC 459 that end up being ruled as felonies often are more severe in nature. These are typically residential burglaries where the crime has resulted in significant harm. Some factors that can build up to a felony ruling include:

  • The nature of the property involved
  • If any occupants were present on the property during the incident
  • If any weapons were used or recovered
  • Any form of violence against a resident of the home
  • How much money any stolen items were worth

On the other side, less severe conditions could lead to the PC 459 violation being treated as a misdemeanor. These typically involve lighter instances of burglary, such as breaking into a vacant home or parked vehicle. Some factors that will lead to a misdemeanor charge include the following:

  • If the crime is categorized as a second-degree burglary
  • The absence of any occupants in the violated property
  • A lack of weapons or violence
  • Inexpensive items taken
What Are the Legal Repercussions of a PC 459 Crime?

The legal repercussions largely depend on whether the crime has been classified as a felony or misdemeanor. Because felonies are charged for more serious crimes, they come with heftier repercussions. This can include a lengthier time in prison, larger fines, or stricter conditions for probation. Alternatively, those charged with a misdemeanor can still expect these types of punishments, but on a lighter scale. For example, someone with a misdemeanor charge may only spend a few months in jail and then transition to a more relaxed probation period where they meet with a probation officer on a certain cadence.

Each poses different implications to one’s criminal record as well. A felony conviction is known to indicate a serious violation. This can remain on one’s record for the rest of their life, which can impact their ability to seek specific employment, housing, or advancements to their education. It can also remove some civil liberties that non-criminals have a right to, such as voting, owning a firearm, and holding a job in public office. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, can be sealed from your record after 10 years and will have less drastic effects on one’s ability to achieve some of these achievements in the future.

If either a felony or misdemeanor is dramatically affecting your quality of life, a criminal defense attorney can explore the feasibility of seeking an expungement or other legal avenues to lessen the long-term implications of your life and participation in society. This is not always possible, but is an avenue worth investigating with legal counsel.

Common Legal Defenses for Penal Code 459

Not every accusation of violating PC 459 is an automatic guilty verdict. Everyone has the right to innocence until they are officially proven guilty in court. Sometimes, an alleged incident is not what it seems and requires a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect their client from illegal or unfair allegations.

Some of the most common legal defenses for a burglary allegation include:

Lack of intent: The responsibility to prove a defendant had the intent to commit theft rests with the prosecution. Just the mere presence of an individual does not constitute burglary unless it can be connected to evidence that suggests intent beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution will try to achieve this by stringing together evidence to show that the defendant had planned or plotted to perform the burglary. A theft defense attorney must demonstrate the defendant lacked this intent to undermine the case. For instance, their client could have entered the building to seek shelter from bad weather. Evidence such as the weather report, witness testimonies to the conditions outside, or surveillance footage showing no attempt to perform a calculated break-in could substantiate this defense.

Mistaken identity: It is not uncommon for a burglary to happen without direct witnesses who observe the chain of events. This can make the identification process challenging for the prosecution but opens up many avenues for a defense attorney to exploit inconsistencies in the allegations. For example, presenting an alibi witness to refute the likelihood of the accused being at the location of the crime can favor the defense. They can also question the angle of any surveillance footage to support their position that the wrong individual has been accused of burglary.

False accusation: There are a number of reasons why a false accusation could make its way to the courtroom. Sometimes, a simple misunderstanding just needs to be explained in court to protect the innocence of the inaccurately accused defendant. Other times, the accusations can be more personal, such as if the prosecution’s client has a personal vendetta against the defendant or if they are trying to deflect blame. A strong defense attorney will assess the allegations to unravel the accuser’s motives or expose any inconsistencies in their account of what happened. This will require time spent gathering evidence of why the individual might have a motive to lie, such as a dispute or grudge, and then highlighting any discrepancies in the accuser’s statements to cast doubt on the accusations.

Insufficient evidence: Evidence is key for both the prosecution and defense, but the burden of proof lies with the accuser and their legal team. It requires them to bring forth a collection of evidence that leads a jury to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was legitimate. However, there can be alternative explanations to the evidence that is presented. This is what the defense team will look at to highlight any gaps in their argument that leave the jury curious about alternative explanations. If there are any questions as to how the evidence was collected, the defense could set forth a motion to dismiss any tainted evidence that should be removed from the record.

Consent to enter: Burglary necessitates unlawful entry, which means the prosecution must prove that the accused individual did not have permission to enter the home from its occupant. This generally means there should be no evidence of the homeowner giving the individual permission to enter. A defense attorney can counteract these charges by showing any digital communications, call recordings, or even testimony from a witness to suggest that the question of consent is muddy. For example, the individual may have had permission to be in the home in the past, which could gray the conversation of consent.

Abandonment of intent: While there is a possibility for a legitimate attempted burglary charge, there are also scenarios where someone accused of burglary has legally abandoned their original intent and can avoid or reduce their charges. The defendant will be required to show that their client’s abandonment was complete and not just a temporary hesitation. For example, there may be evidence that the defendant left the scene and immediately altered the authorities of what was about to happen. There could also be proof that the defendant started to take different steps to prevent the crime from happening, like in instances where there may have been a group effort to break into someone’s home, but then the defendant actively stopped the entire crime from actually taking place.

Duress or Coercion: Not all crimes occur purely with the intent to inflict harm on a victim. Sometimes, a crime is pursued to protect oneself from immediate threat or harm. For this to be a legitimate argument, the defense must display evidence that shows how their client was faced with a valid threat that gave them no other reasonable option to escape other than breaking into the home. This could look like the defendant being held at gunpoint and needing to enter someone’s home out of self-defense. Evidence that showcases the validity of the threat and any witnesses who observed the coercion can be powerful pieces of evidence to share in court and protect an individual from being charged for a crime they had no intention to commit.

Fourth Amendment violations: The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unlawful searches and seizures. A prosecution’s case will be weakened if the defense can challenge how any evidence was collected. If true, this would render the evidence inadmissible and stricken from the record. This could weaken the case to the point where there is no evidence of any crime being committed, allowing the alleged violator to be free.

Being able to construct a solid defense strategy requires a deep examination of all facts, evidence, and applicable legal principles. An experienced criminal defense attorney is a huge asset to anyone who faces burglary accusations that they believe to be innocent. While the above defense strategies are some of the most commonly seen, it’s recommended to consult directly with a defense attorney to see what creative combination of strategies can protect you against unjust allegations.

Is a PC 459 a Strike?

California’s “Three Strikes Law” originated in 1994, driven by high-profile criminal cases where communities were worried ex-felons were being released from prison and immediately engaging in more violent behavior. This law’s aim was to reduce the amount of violent crime from happening by requiring longer prison sentences for repeat offenders. It also intended to deter any criminals with prior convictions from committing new crimes by making it clear that their second or third time around will be faced with even harsher burglary penalties. The first and second strikes are formally counted as serious, violent felonies. If a third strike were to be given, it would automatically trigger a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison if the third felony is proven to be equally as serious or violent as the first two.

A crime that counts as a “strike” typically includes murder, rape, robbery, arson, kidnapping, and any felony that is already punishable by death or life imprisonment. This includes any crime under PC 459 that is classified as first-degree burglary. One strike for any of these crimes automatically escalates the severity of any repeated crime of a similar nature in the future. Strikes can also have huge implications for any possibility of a plea bargain. Prosecutors are often less included in offering a plea or may be legally restricted to do so. This would remove any opportunity for the defense to be able to win a lower sentence for their clients.

What Impact Do Strikes Have on Parole and Probation?

Parole is a conditional release of a prisoner who agrees to follow specific terms and conditions in exchange for not having to remain in prison. Probation is an alternative to prison where an individual can continue to stay in their community under different supervision guidelines. Having strikes will impact how severe either a parole or probation arrangement can be.

For example, any offenders who have a strike are required to serve at least 80% of their sentence before eligible for parole. This is much longer when compared to non-strike offenders, who may only have to serve 50% of their sentence. The differences also extend to the time after parole. Since a strike indicates the risk for recidivism could be higher the individual is likely to experience more supervision, drug tests, and other conditions to ensure their transition back to life outside of prison is successful. There are scenarios where even once a prisoner with a strike reaches the 80% threshold, they are still required to remain in prison. This would happen in scenarios where the prisoner was found guilty of a very severe crime and has not shown much remorse or willingness to change during their sentence.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Strikes?

There can be a stigma attached to any individual who is a repeat offender with strikes. This can lead to social isolation after prison and difficulties reintegrating back into a community. Sometimes, the individuals even have difficulty returning back to relationships they had with family and friends before their conviction.

It’s not unheard of for an individual with strikes to have trouble finding suitable employment and housing. Longer incarceration periods are reflected in background checks, supported by gaps in employment history. It can cause concern for many employers and landlords, which only exacerbates an individual’s difficulty re-entering society. All of this stress can snowball into significant mental health issues, especially when the individual begins to feel hopeless.

If someone finds themself really struggling to turn their life around post-prison with strikes on their record, connecting with a criminal defense attorney could open some doors to a solution. For example, they could escalate any appeals or legal challenges to their convictions. While the process is complex and would take a while, it could make a huge difference. To qualify for an official expungement of a conviction and associated strikes off one’s record, the criteria are stringent. Working directly with a skilled defense attorney who has a track record of successful expungements would be the primary way to recreate that success for their own case.

Clarification of Common Myths and Misconceptions of PC 459

Myth: Burglary and robbery are the same.

Clarification: This is not true. A burglary is when an individual unlawfully enters a structure with the clear intent to commit a theft or other felony. It differs from a robbery, which is when someone takes property directly from another person through force or fear.

Myth: I can only be charged with burglary if I break into a home at night.

Clarification: A recognized burglary under PC 459 does not have any restrictions on when the alleged crime occurred. Burglaries can occur at any time of the day and will be punished more severely if anyone is home at the time.

Myth: Possessing burglary tools is a crime.

Clarification: No one should fear purchasing certain tools for different needs they may have. If they are similar to what tools a burglary would use, there is still no crime committed unless a prosecutor can successfully connect them to being used for illegal entry.

Myth: A burglary charge will always result in a jail sentence

Clarification: While this is a possible repercussion of a guilty burglary verdict, prison is not inevitable. The final outcome will rest on what the degree of burglary was concluded as, whether it was a felony or misdemeanor, and the effectiveness of the legal defense.

Myth: The value of what was stolen has no bearing on how severe the charges will be.

Clarification: While it's not the first thing taken into consideration, the value of certain items can have an influence on a case’s outcome. There is a difference between petty theft (items of lower value) and grand theft (items of higher value). Sometimes, the value of what was stolen helps indicate how much a burglary was planned, such as an organized effort to steal expensive jewelry vs. someone stealing a few random items that they could get their hands on.

Contact Power Trial Lawyers today if you have any questions concerning PC 459 and its implications for your own case. We are skilled criminal defense attorneys with a history of defending clients against burglary charges. Our team has a thorough understanding of what is at stake and how personalized guidance and representation is the key to securing the most favorable outcome possible under PC 459.

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