How Does California Define Breaking and Entering?
Though California does not have a single statute that prohibits "breaking and entering", Penal Code 602 prohibits trespassing, and Penal Code 459 prohibits acts of burglary. More specifically, Penal Code 459 states,
"Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or mine or any underground portion thereof, with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary."
Trespassing is a misdemeanor that can result in up to six months in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. Though trespassing is typically only a misdemeanor, trespassing can pose as threats to the privacy and safety of property owners. Burglary, however, can be categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony with a maximum prison sentence of six years.
Another possible consequence of trespassing and/or burglary is a lawsuit from the owner of the violated property who may want compensation for any damage or missing items. It is not necessary for the accused to be found guilty in order for such a lawsuit to take place.
Burglary under Penal Code 459 is separated into two categories: First-degree burglary and Second-degree burglary.
First-degree burglary is when someone breaks into a residential space. Second-degree burglary is when someone breaks into a commercial space or other buildings, such as a store. First-degree burglary is charged as a felony, whereas Second-degree burglary may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In either case, for the action to be considered burglary, the accused must have had criminal intent when breaking in; however, they do not have to have fulfilled their plan as long as the intent to commit the crime was there.
Trespassing can be defined as an act of wilfully dwelling on or entering a property that you do not have the right or permission to be on. If someone ends up on a property by accident, then they have not violated PC 602.
Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.