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What are the elements of a burglary charge?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2022 | Theft Crimes

If California authorities believe that you broke into a structure with the intent to commit a crime, you may be charged with burglary. A conviction on a burglary charge may result in jail time, a fine and other penalties. However, if the prosecutor in your case cannot establish that all of the elements of the crime were satisfied, you may be acquitted or receive a favorable plea deal.

You entered a structure without authorization

The first element of a burglary is going into any type of structure without authorization. Examples of structures may include a home, an abandoned warehouse or a boat that people lived on or otherwise occupied on a regular basis. A tent, car or log cabin may also qualify as a structure under state law.

It’s worth noting that entering doesn’t necessarily mean that you walked through an open door or window. Entering could mean that you broke a door or window to gain access to a structure or that you charmed the owner of a home or cabin into allowing you to spend the night. However, it may be possible to build a criminal defense to this charge around the argument that you had permission to enter a structure.

You intended to commit a crime

Most people assume that a burglary charge means that a person intended to steal something or commit a similar crime. However, a burglary charge may stick if it can be shown that you intended to violate the law in any way. For instance, if you intended to assault the person who owned the home that you entered with permission, that would be enough to meet this element. Using drugs or drinking alcohol while underage are other examples of activities that might result in being charged with this crime.

Casting doubt on any of the elements of a burglary charge may be enough to get it dropped before a trial begins. If a burglary charge is dropped, it may be possible to have it sealed, which may mean that it won’t show up on background checks.