California Commercial Burglary

California makes a distinction between burglary of a residence and burglary of a business. If the crime involves a business premises, it is considered "commercial burglary."

The California burglary statute applies to both types, describing places of both residential and commercial natures where burglary may take place. Potentially commercial settings listed include:

  • Shops
  • Warehouses
  • Stores
  • Mills
  • Railroad cars
  • Locked cargo containers
  • Mines

Someone who enters one of the buildings, structures or other places listed in the burglary statute with the intention of carrying out grand or petit theft or any felony commits the crime of burglary.

Case law clarifies the difference from a victims' standpoint. If the victim that suffers the loss is a "business entity" it is a commercial burglary, as opposed to the burglary of an "individual".

Burglary of a commercial space is second-degree burglary for which the traditional sentence has been "imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison." Burglary of an inhabited space is first-degree for which the traditional sentence has been "imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years."

However, these sentences may vary if affected by the current state of California "realignment" that redirects criminals from state prison to county jail programs in some circumstances to relieve overcrowding and save state money. Burglary sentences may also be steeper if the defendant is a repeat or violent offender.

Sentencing for commercial burglary becomes even more complicated for a repeat offender because whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony may determine how steep the sentence can be.

Someone convicted of commercial burglary may also be ordered to provide restitution to the victim. For example, if the burglary consisted of taking money from a bank, the defendant may also be ordered to repay the bank.

In addition, if a commercial burglary is committed during a declared emergency because of an earthquake, storm, riot or other disaster, the act becomes the separate crime of looting.

Burglary is a serious crime in California and depending on your criminal history may result in severe punishment. Anyone being investigated for or charged with burglary should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect his or her rights.