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Is Burglary a Felony in California?

Burglary is a serious crime in every state, including California. Also referred to as breaking and entering, burglary is the crime of illegally entering a property with the intent to commit theft or another felony. If you are facing burglary charges, contact a Tehama County theft lawyer and read more to find out your options.

What is the Difference Between Burglary and Robbery?

People may think the terms can be used interchangeably, but robbery and burglary are two different crimes. Robbery involves stealing something from a person using threats or harm, whereas simply entering a property illegally can constitute burglary, whether or not anything was taken or any damage was done. According to California law, to be considered burglary the defendant must have illegally entered a non-commercial property such as a building, locked vehicle, room within a building, or structure with intent to steal or execute some other felony. In addition, the value of the property that was stolen or intended to be stolen has to be more than $950. If it was a commercial establishment it could still be classified as burglary if the defendant entered the property outside of business hours.

Will I Be Charged with a Felony for Burglary in California?

Depending on the specifics of the crime, burglary could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. First-degree burglary is a felony in California, whereas second-degree burglary could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.

First-degree burglary relates to residences. In California, a residence includes a house, inhabited boat, inhabited trailer, or an inhabited hotel/motel room. Keep in mind that you must have the intent to commit another felony such as theft, arson, or kidnapping. Penalties for first-degree burglary include:

  • Up to 6 years of jail time
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Felony probation

Second-degree burglary is the burglary of any non-residential property or commercial building. Penalties for second-degree burglary vary. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case a second-degree burglary could be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. The consequences of a second-degree burglary conviction are as follows.


  • Up to 1 year of jail time
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor probation


  • Up to 3 years of jail time
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Felony probation

What Defenses Can I Use For Burglary Charges?

To be convicted in California, it must be proven that you not only illegally entered a structure but that you had the intent of committing theft or another crime. There are some defenses that a skilled attorney can use to build your case. Burglars often cover their face and body during the crime, meaning they can be misidentified by witnesses. If you are falsely accused of burglary your lawyer could argue mistaken identity.

If you did enter a property illegally but did not intend to commit theft or another crime then your entering the structure may not be considered a felony. Burglary charges hinge on the idea that you were planning on committing another felony once inside.

Depending on your circumstances a lawyer could argue that you shoplifted not burgled, which is a less harsh sentence. Communicate with an experienced lawyer to find out what defense would work best for your case.