Residential Burglary


When most people think of residential burglary, they imagine someone sneaking into a home in the dead of night—maybe while wearing a mask and wielding a firearm—and stealing high-end jewelry, fancy electronics, or other precious items.

And while that’s one instance that may result in a burglary accusation, it’s far from the only scenario in which someone might be charged. In reality, burglary is a complex charge that can be difficult to understand or challenge. Luckily, an experienced San Diego burglary and robbery lawyer can help make sense of the charge, break down its potential impact, and help the accused mount a proper defense.

What Is Residential Burglary?

First-degree burglary, listed under California Penal Code 459, occurs when someone enters property with the intent to commit a felony—even if said felony isn’t theft.

“Property,” in this instance,” is defined as anywhere someone might live, whether a home, apartment, hotel room, camper, or houseboat. (Note: A dwelling is considered “inhabited” when it can be used as a living space, even if no one is home or around when a crime takes place.)

What Are Some Examples of Residential Burglary?

Residential burglary may occur when someone:

  • Breaks into a house to steal a bicycle, television, or other personal items
  • Walks into an open garage to steal tools
  • Enters a hotel room to steal expensive jewelry

How Does A Prosecutor Prove Residential Burglary?

It is very difficult for a prosecutor to prove someone committed residential burglary. In making their case, a prosecutor must show that the accused entered an inhabited dwelling or residence with the intent to commit theft or another felony.

If a prosecutor can’t prove that someone intended to commit a felony, they may seek other charges, such as trespassing.

What Are Some Common Defenses Against A Residential Burglary Charge?

There are several defenses against a residential burglary charge. They include:

  • Permission: If you believe you had been granted permission to enter someone’s property, you are not committing burglary.
  • Intent: This is a key factor in determining whether burglary occurs. If you enter someone’s property without intent to commit another crime, you are not committing burglary.
  • Lying: If you had a falling-out or argument with the accuser, they may fabricate their story as a means of seeking revenge.
  • Claim of right: You are not committing burglary if you entered someone’s residence to take a piece of property (such as a power tool) that you thought belonged to you.

How Is Residential Burglary Punished?

Those convicted of residential burglary can be punished with two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in state prison.

Residential burglary also falls under California’s Three Strikes Law, and conviction may count toward someone’s three strikes.

What Should You Do If You Face A Residential Burglary Charge

As a felony, a residential burglary charge can carry with it life-altering consequences. If you (or a family member or friend) are charged with residential burglary, it is imperative to contact an experienced San Diego attorney who can attempt to reduce or even dismiss your charges.

A good attorney can help make sense of the charges, find out all the facts, and help you avoid the maximum penalties you might otherwise face. If you are facing residential burglary charges, call San Diego attorney Jessica McElfresh today at (858) 756-7107 for a free consultation on your case. Find out how she may be able to help. Ultimately, every case is unique, and an experienced San Diego attorney can review the facts of your case, explain your options for a defense, and tell you what to expect from the legal process