San Diego Auto Burglary Attorney
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, you should immediately contact a skilled theft crime lawyer at jD LAW, P.C. by calling (760) 630-2000. Our legal team can review every detail of your case and develop a thorough defense strategy to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
California law treats auto burglary as a second-degree theft crime, which can be a wobbler. Depending on the seriousness of the crime or the opinion of the prosecution, you may be charged with a felony or 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.
To convict you of auto burglary, the prosecution must prove two main elements in your 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 is 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 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
Showing 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.
The arguments your attorney raises in your defense will rely on the specifics 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.
Auto burglary is a serious crime in California. If convicted, you may be facing jail time, harsh fines, and a permanent mark on your criminal record. You should not face these charges alone. Call jD LAW, P.C. 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 auto burglary in California.
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