A Fountain Valley High School storage locker was broken into and thousands of dollars worth of baseball equipment stolen over the Labor Day weekend. According to authorities, the equipment was taken from the locker sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. The value of the items taken is reportedly to be $3,000.00 to $4,000.00. According to the Coach of the high school team, the school is made up of 84% economically disadvantaged families and the theft is a huge blow to the program.
The authorities are investigating the theft and if the perpetrators are caught, they face serious charges including but not limited to burglary and possession of stolen property. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the theft, the people involved, and their prior criminal record, the District Attorney could elect to add additional charges.
Burglary is defined under California law as “entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or petty theft once inside.” Burglary is a “wobbler”, meaning that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending upon the circumstances and your prior criminal record.
There is First Degree Burglary and <Second Degree Burglary. The difference lies with the type of structure broken into. Residential burglary is first-degree burglary and is always filed as a felony. In this particular situation, because the structure broken into was a storage locker at a high school and not a residence, the District Attorney may elect to file it as a misdemeanor, second-degree burglary.
If charged with burglary, the prosecution must prove certain elements of the crime in order to be convicted. The elements are: 1) That you entered the structure; and 2) that you entered the structure with the intent to steal or commit another felony once inside.
Intent, when entering a structure plays a very important role in terms of what the ultimate charge will be. In petty theft or shoplifting cases, it can be mean the difference between a charge of petty theft and second-degree burglary. As an example, a young woman goes shopping with the intent to buy a lip gloss. But, once inside, she discovers that the lip gloss is more expensive than she anticipated and she steals it. The charge should be petty theft because, when she entered the store, her intent was to buy a lip gloss and only elected to steal it after realizing that it was too expensive. Keep in mind however, that the charge of petty theft is based on a value less than $950.00. Above that amount will result in a charge of grand theft.
Regarding the situation here where the baseball equipment was taken from the storage locker, the value exceeds $950.00 and therefore, even if the intent to steal were not there, and thus no burglary charge, the charge would be grand theft, based on the value of the items taken.
The penalties and punishments for a conviction of burglary can be harsh. The following is an example of guideline penalties:
A Conviction for First Degree Burglary, a felony, exposes you to two, four or six years in a state prison and a $10,000.00 fine;
A conviction for Second Degree Burglary as a felony exposes you to sixteen months or two or three years in state prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
A conviction of Second Degree Burglary as a misdemeanor exposes you to up to one year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
Burglary cases can be difficult and complicated for the prosecution to prove due to legal technicalities. For this reason, they often agree to settle cases for lesser charges. So, even though you may have been arrested and prosecuted for felony burglary, an experienced criminal defense attorney will often be successful in getting the charge reduced to misdemeanor burglary or dismissed all together.
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