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San Diego Auto Burglary Attorneys


Defending Individuals Charged With Theft Crimes

Within the state of California, Penal Code 495 defines auto burglary as an intent crime that involves illegally entering a locked automobile or its trunk with the purpose of removing any property from the vehicle, stealing the car, or committing any other felony while within the car.

A charge of auto burglary can also be prosecuted alongside other crimes, such as grand theft auto, petty theft, grand theft, or another felony offense. Because this crime can be paired with other charges, securing the aid of a skilled criminal defense attorney is imperative to avoid serious jail time.

If you have been charged with auto burglary in San Diego, contact an experienced theft crime lawyer at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling (760) 630-2000. Our legal team will review every detail of your case and develop a thorough defense strategy to have your charges reduced or dismissed.

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What Are the Penalties for Auto Burglary?

California law treats auto burglary as a second-degree theft crime, which can be a wobbler. This means that, depending on the seriousness of the crime or the opinion of the prosecution, you may be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor auto burglary can result in up to one year in county jail, while you could be facing a jail sentence of 16 months to two or even three years if you are charged with a felony.

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Proving Auto Burglary

To convict a defendant of auto burglary, the prosecution must prove two main elements in their case:

  • Entering a vehicle that is locked; and
  • In entering the vehicle, having the intention of committing a theft or a California felony.

The broad language used in this law makes it subject to interpretation by the prosecution and defense. As a result, there are a number of avenues your lawyer can pursue when preparing your case.

What Does Entering a Locked Vehicle Mean?

The law states specifically that the car doors or the trunk of the vehicle must be locked in order for auto burglary to occur. This means that you would had to have broken into the car by some method, such as breaking a window, using tools to open the trunk, or reaching your hand through a window. To enter a vehicle in this context, you must place any part of your body or any object under your control within the threshold of the vehicle, whether it is the door, window, or hood.

Intent to Commit a Theft or a California Felony

Demonstrating intent to commit a California felony or theft is key to proving that auto burglary occurred. If you simply entered a locked car belonging to another person without intent to steal anything or commit a California felony, you are not guilty of auto burglary.

Examples of California felonies committed in connection with auto burglary include grand theft (stealing items worth more than $950 inside the car), grand theft auto (stealing the car you broke into), or kidnapping (if your intention was to abduct someone). To convict you of auto burglary, the prosecution does not have to prove that you actually committed a felony or theft, only that you broke into the automobile with the intention of committing a felony or theft.

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Auto Part Theft Is Big Business

Auto parts can be extremely valuable. It’s easier to steal a part than a whole car, and some thieves are even stealing parts right in front of people’s houses. Stealing parts from an auto yard or a repair shop can be very lucrative, but in can also lead to severe penalties. Stealing over $20,000 in auto parts is a Class B Felony, which can get a person up to 20 years in state prison.

The frequently stolen car part include:

  • Catalytic Converters are coveted for their platinum, which is worth over $1,000 per ounce, and their palladium, which goes for almost $2,000 per ounce. In fact, over 1,500 catalytic converter thefts were reported in San Diego County in 2021. A thief only needs a hacksaw to take one, and they can do it in a few minutes.
  • Wheels and Tires can be very expensive, especially if you have nice rims. Wheels and tires are easy to sell, and thieves can quickly take them both at once and just rest the car on some cinder blocks to avoid suspicion for a while.
  • Batteries are probably the easiest thing to steal that can easily be converted into cash. All you have to do is open the hood, loosen a few of bolts, and lift it right out. A single battery isn’t worth much, that’s why thieves will often target several cars in a secluded place and take as many batteries as they can get away with.
  • Air Bags that haven’t been deployed are often sold to unscrupulous mechanics who install them in other people’s cars and sell them as if they were new. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 50,000 air bags are stolen every year, costing vehicle owners more than $50 million.
  • In-Car Systems. Car stereos used to be a hot item, but today thieves will take the music player as well as the whole navigation system.

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What Are Examples of Legal Defenses to Auto Burglary?

The arguments your attorney raises in your defense will rely on the specific details of your case, but there are a handful of key defenses that can be employed:

  • The vehicle was not locked: Because California law requires that the vehicle be locked to constitute an auto burglary charge, your lawyer can effectively use this defense to dismiss the charges.
  • No intent to commit a theft or felony: If you had no intention of stealing the car or any of its contents and had no intention of committing a felony inside the car, you are not guilty of auto burglary.
  • Insufficient evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions constituted the necessary elements of the crime. Circumstantial evidence is not enough to justify a conviction. Being near a car with a broken window or if the prosecution cannot prove intent can be a sign of insufficient evidence.

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You Want the Right Person on Your Side

Auto burglary is a serious crime in California, even if prosecutors only have evidence that you broke into a car. If convicted, you may be facing jail time, harsh fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. Don’t face these charges alone. Call jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

Founding attorney and San Diego criminal defense lawyer James N. Dicks is a former LAPD investigator and a certified criminal law specialist. We can provide the dedicated criminal defense you need if you have been charged with any type of auto burglary or breaking into a car in California.

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Further Reading

Penal Code 495

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