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Burglary & Theft Offenses

In the eyes of the law, some crimes are more serious than others. Though there are instances of theft that are dismissed as minor offenses, most burglary and theft cases are prosecuted with severity. No matter your reason for committing the crime, a theft or burglary charge can have a significant impact on your ability to get a job, secure safe housing, and even have custody of your children. If you are being charged with theft or burglary, you must seek a Riverside defense attorney to ensure that you have the best chances of putting your offense behind you.

Types Of Theft

It is essential to distinguish between the different types of theft as defined by California state law. These distinctions could be the difference between a minor punishment and one that follows you for life. As an overarching rule, theft is defined as the act of permanently stripping an individual or establishment of their property, money, or labor.

Petty Theft

In situations of petty theft, the things being stolen do not exceed the price of $950. For example, if you were to steal a lipstick from a store, it would fall under the petty theft category, as lipstick does not cost more than $950. Potential punishments for petty theft include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Up to six months of jail time
  • Counseling

Of course, your punishment will depend on your history, your offense, and the efficacy of your Riverside attorney’s defense.

Grand Theft

Grand theft is the opposite of petty theft in that it covers any theft above $950. However, it is considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Potential punishments for grand theft include:

  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Up to 12 months in jail for a misdemeanor, or up to three years in prison for a felony
  • Restitution
  • Counseling
  • Community service

The severity of the punishment will depend on your history, the circumstances of the theft, damage or injury incurred, and more. Your attorney’s defense case can make a massive difference in these situations.


Burglary is in a different category than theft. The distinction begins with the location of the crime. Theft can happen anywhere but generally describes a situation in which the thief was in the location legally, such as a store, and stole something. Burglary encompasses the crime of unlawfully entering a location as well as stealing. Under the category of burglary, two types can be committed.

Burglary in the Second Degree

The lesser of the two categories is second-degree burglary. This type of burglary at a nonresidential location, such as a business or a car. Punishments for second-degree burglary are generally less severe than those for first-degree burglary. However, this is also a “wobbler” offense, meaning that second-degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony based on the circumstances. Potential punishments for second-degree burglary include:

  • 12 months in jail for a misdemeanor, or three years in prison for a felony charge
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Fines or restitution
  • Counseling

As you can tell, the charges for second-degree burglary are similar to those of grand theft. The specific charges of your case will depend on your record and the circumstances of the second-degree burglary.

Burglary in the First Degree

First-degree burglary is more severe, as it encompasses burglary that occurs in a residence. Many people refer to this type of burglary as “breaking and entering” or “residential burglary.” Unlike second-degree burglary, first-degree burglary is always a felony. It is important to note that the residents’ whereabouts are not relevant; it is considered first-degree burglary whether the inhabitants are home or not. Possible punishments for first-degree burglary include:

  • Up to six years in prison
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Fines
  • Counseling
  • First strike

It is essential to highlight the first strike that is incurred after a first-degree burglary. California’s three-strike rule states that you will be automatically sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after
your third major offense (or strike). In the case of burglary in the first degree, there is no room for error; you must hire an experienced Riverside attorney to represent you.

Breaking and Entering Clarification

It is important to note that, although many people use the terms interchangeably, first-degree burglary is technically different from breaking and entering. You do not have to break in or break through a lock for your offense to constitute first-degree burglary. Even entering a residence unlawfully via an open door is considered burglary in the first degree. For example, if a resident leaves their garage door open and you enter and steal their bike, you have committed first-degree burglary.

Defense Against Theft or Burglary Charges

Your attorney’s defense against your theft or burglary charges will vary depending on your case. They may argue that you were innocent altogether or that there is insufficient evidence to convict you. They could also argue that you were coerced. Alternatively, they may try to prove that you did not have the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. For example, let’s say your neighbor leaves his garage door open. You enter the garage and take his expensive grill to use for your party. Technically, you have committed first-degree burglary. However, you intended to return the grill when you were done, and your defense lawyer may be able to use this lack of intent to lessen the charges.

Contact Us

No matter your situation, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney on your side to argue your case. The charges and punishments for theft and burglary are severe, and the consequences can easily ruin your life. Your best hope of minimizing damage and returning to your everyday life is to call our experienced Riverside defense attorneys. With years of experience in criminal defense, no one can defend you better than our lawyers at Exum Law Offices. Time is of the essence; contact us at 951-934-0227 to discuss your options.