Police may have done a double take when they arrested two men for allegedly breaking into a rare coin and bullion shop in Costa Mesa. The two men, with almost the same name—Jamal and Jamel—look like the same person. That is because they are identical twins. The two 42-year old brothers from Los Angeles were caught on monitored security cameras breaking into the front doors of the shop in the early morning hours this past Sunday. The break-in was reported to the police but not before the brothers managed to grab some loot and speed away.
A car chase ensued with Costa Mesa police in pursuit on Newport Boulevard onto the eastbound 55 Freeway. Shortly after merging onto the 55, the twins stopped their car and jumped out. The police then chased the suspects on foot, at which point the suspects entered two building by breaking through the windows. The police finally caught up and the two men were arrested. It sounds like a scene out of a cop and robber movie with a twist. The cops must have been surprised to find that their suspects were identical twins.
When the brothers took off, they left their loot in the car. Police found coins and the brother’s burglary tools in their abandoned vehicle. News reports state the men face counts of burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime and evading peace officers. I would think theft would be added to those charges.
Because these burglars entered a commercial building with the intent to commit a theft, it is a second-degree burglary. In California, the burglary of a commercial structure is a second-degree burglary, and is less serious under the law than first degree burglary. First degree burglary entails entering a structure that is occupied, such as a house, apartment, or even a tent (the inhabitants in the ”occupied” structure need not be present at the time of the burglary) to commit a crime. First degree burglary is a very serious charge and always a felony, while second-degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony (called a “wobbler” offense).
Unless these brothers were very incompetent thieves, we can be pretty certain that the value of the coins they took was over $950.00. In California, any theft of property valued at over $950 is grand theft, as opposed to the less serious, petty theft. While grand theft is a wobbler offense and can be charged as a misdemeanor, it is unlikely that the prosecution will go light on these guys. A felony grand theft carries a sentence of up to three years in state prison.
You might wonder about the conspiracy charge. We often think of conspiracy as a white-collar crime. But conspiracy to commit a crime is a very broad statue that simply makes it a crime when two or more people plan a criminal act. As long as there is evidence that the conspirators planned to commit the crime and there is evidence of one overt act in furtherance of the plan—whether the plan is carried out or not—there is a conspiracy to commit a crime under California’s penal code. The conspiracy charge may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Like the other charges, the brother’s evasion of the police may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony; it will depend upon the circumstances. If the brother’s drove their vehicle recklessly or at high speeds, it is likely they will face a felony charge for this offense.
While every offense these men are accused of could be charged as a misdemeanor, it is almost a certainty that the prosecution will file a felony complaint on each charge. It is rare, especially when there are multiple criminal charges for the same act that the prosecution chooses to file misdemeanor charges on a wobbler offense. However, that doesn’t mean that these brothers will be convicted on all felonies, or even that they will be sharing a cell at the state prison. The evidence is tight on this one so the brothers will probably make a plea. If they have a skillful defense attorney and a reasonably clean criminal history, they may not be sentenced to incarceration at all but rather granted a term of probation.
If you are facing criminal charges, contact Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg for a complimentary consultation regarding your options. Even when the charges are serious, you aren’t necessarily facing jail or prison. William Weinberg can help. Call him at (949) 474-9700 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.