What is Auto Burglary?
Auto burglary, under California law, takes places when someone enters a locked vehicle with the intent to:
- Steal the car,
- Steal property inside the car, or
- Commit any other California felony inside the car.
In order for a person to be guilty of auto burglary, two key elements must be true.
- You must have entered a locked vehicle,
- When you entered the vehicle, you had the intent to commit a felony or theft.
Your entire body does not have to be in the vehicle in order to be considered “entering the vehicle.” If you reach any part of your body into the car or put an object that is under your control into the vehicle, then that is still “entering the vehicle.”
Penalties for Auto Burglary
Since auto burglary is typically classified as second-degree burglary, it is considered a wobbler. A wobbler means that the crime can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and your criminal history.
As a misdemeanor, the penalties could be up to a year in a county jail. As a felony, the penalties would increase to sixteen months, two, or three years in a county jail.
Legal Defenses for Auto Burglary
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you with a strong legal defense against this crime. Here are some of the most common legal defenses.
The vehicle was not locked
This legal defense is one of the most successful since it is required that in order to be convicted of this crime, the vehicle had to have been locked. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you find the evidence to prove this element to be true.
You had no intent to commit a felony or crime
If you did not intend to steal any contents of the car or the car itself or to commit any other felony, then you cannot be guilty of this crime.
This defense is related to the vehicle being unlocked and not having the intent to the commit a felony or crime. The prosecutor needs to be able to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that your actions were in compliance with the legal definition of auto burglary.