Two young men, both 18 years old, were recently arrested and charged with Burglary and Receiving Stolen Property, both Felonies and Tampering with a Vehicle and Petty Theft, both misdemeanors. The young men were stopped by police officers while riding their bikes in the early morning hours in Tustin, Orange County, California. Police officers found electronics, cameras and other items in a backpack belonging to one of the young men. Also found was a GPS which, according to Police Officers, was from a Mercedes that had been reported missing.
Burglary is defined by California law as “entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony (or a petty theft) once inside”. Forced entry is not required for someone to be charged with burglary, only that you entered a building with the intent to commit a theft or felony. possession of stolen property or receiving stolen property is defined as a person who has property that was gained by theft, fraud or any other crime. The person must also have knowledge that the property was stolen or gained by fraud. If the prosecution can show that it was obvious that a reasonable person had this knowledge but ignored, or chose not to investigate further, they can be found guilty of the charges.
Receiving stolen property under California Penal Code 496 is considered a “wobbler”. This means that, depending on the circumstances of the case and the criminal history of the accused, it can either be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the sentence is up to one year in County Jail. But if convicted of a felony, the sentence is 16 months to 3 years in State Prison. First Degree Burglary is always filed as a Felony. The penalties and punishments for First Degree burglary are two, four, or six years in the California State Prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.00; California law instructs judges not to issue probation if convicted of burglarizing an inhabited structure unless it is an “unusual case where the interests of justice would be best served by doing so”. For this reason, an experienced criminal law defense attorney, having extensive experience and knowledge in burglary cases, is the best way to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome.
There are several defenses to these charges that, in this case, an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney should consider, depending on the circumstances of the case. Some of the more common defenses to Receiving Stolen Property are: Mistake of fact, meaning that he didn’t know that the property was stolen. Also, believing that he had a right to the property. If either or both of these can be proven, he cannot be convicted of the charge. Similarly, if he didn’t know that he possessed the stolen property, in other words, someone placed the property in his possession without his knowledge, he would be entitled to an acquittal. Some common defenses to first degree burglary include: Intent, it must be proved that you intended to commit a theft when you entered the dwelling; 2) Mistake of fact, you believed you had the right take something back that belonged to you; 3) Consent, you were invited in by the owner and the owner knew of your intent to commit theft (this becomes complicated); and 4) You are innocent of the charges. This could include mistake in identity and/or misleading evidence. Defenses to all of the crimes include whether or not the police officers had probable cause to search these two young men’s backpacks; were their constitutional rights violated. This is extremely important because if there was any misconduct on the part of the officers and the rights of these young men were violated, the case could be dismissed all together.
These two men are facing serious charges, and at their young age, can affect them for the rest of their life. While you are considered an adult at the age of 18, most 18-year-old boys are still not mature enough to stop, think and really consider how serious their actions are and what the consequences might be. Especially if they have never been in trouble with the law and have never had legal consequences. For this reason, it is extremely important that these young men be represented by experienced criminal defense attorneys, who have experience in not only defending these charges, but also with defending young adults.
If you would like to know more about burglary, receiving stolen property, unlawful tampering with a vehicle or petty theft, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William M. Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.