June 19, 2012 By Wallin & Klarich

An individual charged with automobile burglary in Los Angeles (PC 459) would do well to seek the assistance of a Southern California defense attorney. This charge is a wobbler, meaning it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony; however, a felony burglary conviction can mean serving time in state prison.

California law distinguishes automobile burglary from theft in order to provide stiffer sentencing for individuals who actually break into the vehicle. In many ways the two are comparable – an intent to steal is necessary, but in both cases the defendant doesn’t actually have to take anything. The most significant difference, however, is as mentioned, the defendant must actually have broken into the car.

This factor creates a dimension of complexity to this charge. What if the defendant breaks the window? Case precedent shows that, while a broken window can indeed be a means of entering the vehicle, in itself it does not always establish automobile burglary. A defendant who is caught breaking a car window may, for instance, admit that he did so, but suggest he was merely vandalizing the vehicle.

Similarly, if the defendant enters an unlocked vehicle and uses the inside latch to open the trunk, this is not considered breaking and entering. If he steals something from the trunk, the charge would be theft, but not automobile burglary. On the other hand, a charge may be made if the defendant applied pressure in some way which resulted in the door unlocking. Generally the door or trunk lock must have been compromised for an automobile burglary to be successfully prosecuted.

Automobile burglary is charged either as a misdemeanor or felony burglary depending on the specifics of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to a year in county jail; a felony can bring as much as 3 years in custody. For this reason, if you are charged with automobile burglary you need to speak with a Southern California defense attorney. We at Wallin & Klarich have spent over 30 years successfully defending persons accused of automobile burglary. Call us today at (888) 280-6839.

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