Auto Burglary Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

Let Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners Fight Your Charges

Auto burglary (also known as car burglary or vehicle burglary) charges are serious. Most people assume that being arrested for burglarizing a car is a fairly simple misdemeanor that can be handled without an attorney. This is not true! California auto burglary laws are complex, and a charge can result in a felony conviction, state prison sentence, large fine, and permanent criminal record. The criminal defense lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have considerable experience in successfully representing individuals accused of various theft crimes. Contact us for a free consultation!

Auto Burglary Law in California

According to California Penal Code Section 459, a person who enters a locked automobile or other motor vehicle or enters the locked trunk portion of the vehicle (doors locked or unlocked) with the specific intent to commit a theft, or any felony, is guilty of auto burglary.

In other words, if a car is unlocked and someone takes the purse sitting on the front seat, it is not auto burglary. You would probably be charged with a theft offense. If you opened the unlocked car door hoping to steal something, but there was nothing to steal, you could be charged with criminal trespass or attempted theft.

There must be evidence that the defendant entered the automobile by unlocking the doors or trunk, prying open the hood, or breaking the windows in order to be convicted of auto burglary. If you break into a car with the intent to steal whatever you find inside, but there is nothing to steal, the offense can still be charged as auto burglary.

It does not matter that you left empty-handed; it is the intent at the time of breaking and entering that is important. These distinctions are important because the penalties for auto burglary are often more severe than the penalties for theft or criminal trespass. Hire a defense attorney who is familiar with the nuances of these laws.

Penalties and Punishment

In California, auto burglary is second degree burglary. Second-degree burglary can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, meaning it is a "wobbler." In deciding whether to file the case as a misdemeanor or felony, prosecutors usually consider the offender's criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense.

  • If the auto burglary is filed as a misdemeanor, the sentence is one year in county jail, plus three years of informal probation, fines and restitution.
  • If the auto burglary is filed as a felony, sentencing ranges from probation and county jail time to a maximum of three years in state prison.

In most California criminal courts, felony charges are filed when the defendant has a prior auto burglary conviction even if the prior auto burglary was a misdemeanor.

Auto Burglary Related Crimes

Related crimes that can be charged in California include:

  • Tampering with a Vehicle (Vehicle Code Section 10852) – This is a misdemeanor in California and involves injury or removal of car parts.
  • Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle (Vehicle Code Section 10851) – This is a "wobbler" meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Grand Theft Auto (Penal Code Section 487) –This is also a "wobbler" felony in California and involves the theft of a vehicle.
  • Joyriding (Penal Code Section 499b) – This is a misdemeanor that involves taking a vehicle without permission for temporary use.

Arrested in Los Angeles? Contact our firm immediately!

Being charged with auto burglary is a serious matter that requires consultation and assistance from an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, we are true trial lawyers. We are not afraid to try a case when the outcome we want cannot be negotiated with the prosecution. We have the skill, knowledge and aggressiveness it takes to obtain the best possible results for you.

Arrange a confidential consultation to learn more about your rights.