Burglary is one of the theft crime offenses that we handle at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. If you enter a building with the intent to commit a grand or petty theft of a safe or vault, using explosives or a torch, you are likely to face charges of burglary of a safe or vault. You should get in touch with an experienced defense attorney if you are facing burglary charges so that the attorney can evaluate your case and prepare suitable defense strategies.

General View of Burglary in California

PC 459 defines burglary as entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a felony once you are inside or after entering. Keep in mind that whether you are successful in engaging the offense or not, as long as you had the intent to commit a theft, you will still be liable for burglary charges. You will be deemed to have committed a burglary when you enter the following (whether inhabited or commercial) to commit petty theft, grand theft, or felony:

  • Room
  • Apartment
  • House
  • Store
  • Warehouse
  • Vessel
  • Tent

The crime is grouped as either first-degree or second-degree burglary.

When you enter a residential property with the intent to commit a felony, you will be facing a first-degree burglary charge. Entering any other property that is not residential to commit a crime, on the other hand, will attract second-degree burglary.

Legal Meaning of Burglary of a Safe or Vault under PEN 464

According to the law PEN 464, it is illegal to:

  • Enter a building with the intent to commission a grand or petty theft
  • While you are inside, you open or try to open a safe or vault using explosives or a torch

PC 464 violation can happen using explosives or through safecracking or safe blowing by a torch.

Remember that PC 464 is a form of burglary as per PC 459. You don’t have to succeed in securing the safe or vault to be charged with this offense. An attempt alone is enough to get you a conviction. Also, note that the owner of the property can press charges even if the building was not yet occupied. Burglary of a safe or vault is different from burglary because, under PC 464, you must have succeeded in entering the building and then actually opened or attempted to open a safe.

Under California law, breaking into a building and opening or attempting to open a safe or vault are two separate offenses. The prosecutor makes use of the concept that they are two different charges so that they can build cases on separate criminal acts. If you forcefully entered a building then attempted to open a safe or a secure place, you will face PC 464 violation charges, but the prosecution can also build a burglary case for illegal breaking and entering. As per PC 464, a torch is any device, which produces heat that is used to crack a safe. Explosives, on the other hand, include nitroglycerine, gunpowder, or dynamite, and they are used to blow the safe.

PC 459 violation is different from the PC 464 violation. PC 464 is a crime of burglary but involves the use of explosives or acetylene torches to open a vault. Keep in mind that PC 464 violation will always be charged as a felony, whether the property you entered is residential or commercial.

Also, it is worth noting that the prosecution can charge you with a first degree or second-degree burglary of a safe or vault. As mentioned earlier, burglary is classified as a first or second degree based on the type of building you entered. The same applies to burglary of a safe or vault. If you want to crack or blow a safe, securely fitted in a residential property, the prosecution will charge you with the first-degree burglary of a safe or vault. If the vault or safe were securely mounted in a business premise, the offense would be a second-degree burglary.

Court Process for PC 464 Violation Cases

All courts in California follow the same process when prosecuting criminal charges like burglary of a safe or vault. The process involves the following steps:

  1. Arraignment

After the law enforcement has made an arrest for an attempt to open or open a safe, the constitution requires that you appear before a judge in court. At this court appearance, charges will be read to you by the judge, and then you will take a plea. You have the option to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Depending on your plea, you might be released on bail, awaiting a future court date.

  1. Pre-Trial  

At this stage, the judge evaluates the progress of the case. The prosecutor and the defense attorney are free to raise their concerns on the matter so that the court can resolve them and allow the process to go on smoothly. If any of the parties involved in the case needs more time for preparations, the judge will allow ample time for creating defense strategies.

  1. Motions and Readiness Hearing

Once the charges you will be facing are determined, the court allows parties involved to file various motions. A readiness hearing is also permitted so that the prosecution and defense attorneys can inform the court if they are ready to continue to trial.

  1. Trial

If you are facing PC 464 violation charges, you can choose a jury or bench trial. In a bench trial, the judge gives the verdict of the case while in a jury trial, you select jurors to decide on your case.

Elements the Prosecution Rely on to Build your PC 464 Violation Case

For the prosecution to convict you for this crime, they must demonstrate that you illegally entered a building with the intent to break into a safe or vault or succeed in breaking into a safe. Also, they need to show that you had no consent from the owner to enter the premises and that the vault or safe was in a secure location. Below are the elements the prosecutor must demonstrate:

You Had no Authorization from the Owner to Enter the Structure

PC 464 criminalizes entering a secured place without permission from the owner. The owner needs to permit you or authorize you to access the property for entry to be legal. The prosecution must show that you entered a building without permission with the intent to break into a vault. The prosecutor might present a list of people the owner recognizes or has permitted to enter the property to show that you, as the defendant, are not among the people authorized to enter the premises.

The Vault or Safe was in a Secured Place

Vaults and safes are usually kept in secure places so that the people that access them are those authorized to do so. If you try accessing a restricted area to break or succeed in breaking a safe, then you will be subject to a PC 464 violation offense. The prosecuting party can rely on CCTV footage and witness statements to prove that you are guilty.

Intent

The prosecutor must also assert that you had plans or interest in cracking or blowing a safe or vault. They will show intent by explaining to the judge or jury the means you used to enter the restricted area. If you gained access by use of force, the prosecuting attorney could argue that the actions imply you intended to crack or blow a safe. If the security camera footage shows you were nervous when you illegally entered a building, the prosecutor can argue you had an interest in breaking a safe or vault, which is why you appeared nervous.

Penalties for Burglary of a Safe or Vault

If a burglary offense involves the use of explosive and acetylene torches to crack or blow a vault or safe in a secure place, you will be subject to felony charges. A conviction for these charges will attract the following consequences:

  • Formal probation
  • 3, 5, or 7 years of jail time while undergoing a California realignment program
  • Court fines amounting to no more than ten thousand dollars

Formal probation allows you to serve part of your sentence or the entire sentence while in the detailed community while under supervision. The probation period can last for between 36 to 60 months. Probation comes with terms and conditions. In case of a breach of these terms, the judge will dismiss the probation and order you to serve the first jail sentence.

The realignment bill was passed in 2011 to reduce the conviction of defendants. People charged with PC 464 violation can be sentenced under the realignment program, allowing them to serve time in a local jail instead of a state prison. Note that your jail sentence doesn’t reduce under the program.

PC 464 violation is a deportable crime. It means a conviction can increase the chances of deportation if you are a non-citizen. If you have made an application for American citizenship, the Department of Homeland Security can revoke the request or forbid you from setting foot in the U.S soil.

Note that a felony conviction could have you stripped some of your civil rights and privileges. If this happens, finding meaningful employment becomes almost impossible. If you are already employed, getting a promotion becomes extremely difficult. Employers can deny you a raise or job if they find out something about your conviction that is legitimate and might affect the operations of the business. The action is legal, although the law prohibits employers from denying people jobs or promotions because of their criminal records.

When you feel like you are receiving unconstitutional prejudice in your employment because of a felony conviction, you should reach out to a Los Angeles Criminal Attorney. We will check your conviction files to find out the reason for the sentencing, and whether or not it legally affects the employment opportunities that you are pursuing or being denied.

Under the Fourteenth Amendment, a felony conviction for taking part in crime can result in the defendant losing his or her voting rights. Whether you are on parole or in prison, your rights will be subject to suspension for the period of your sentence. However, it is possible to retain voting rights if the judge suspends your sentence and places you on probation but with the condition that you get a sentence of twelve months less in local county jail. Probation allows you to keep your voting rights while still serving your jail time.

Also, you cannot become part of a jury if you have a felony conviction unless you get your civil rights restored. The civil rights can be restored after the California governor has pardoned you or if you apply and obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon.

A felony conviction can have adverse effects on your life and the lives of your loved ones. For this reason, you must find a criminal defense attorney immediately after being charged with a violation of PC 464.  

Legal Defenses for Burglary of a Safe or Vault

The prosecution applies various concepts and tactics to try and earn a conviction for burglary of a safe or vault. Your criminal attorney also needs to step up and create possible defenses to contest the charges. Some of the arguments your attorney can apply to include:

  1. Lack of Intent

One of the potential legal defenses you can use to fight the charges includes arguing that although you entered a building, you had no interest in engaging in a criminal act once inside. Your attorney should demonstrate that you didn’t intend to break the vault when you entered the building. Even if the prosecution can prove you had intent to commit a crime when you opened or attempted to open the safe, it will not be enough to sentence you if they cannot show you already had the intent when you entered the structure.

Proving a lack of intent will require circumstantial evidence that might not always hold in court. As such, if you find it hard to show a lack of purpose, you can opt for a plea deal where you will get a lesser charge, such as possession of burglary tools.

  1. Police Misconduct

Even if you are facing burglary of a safe or vault charges, you have constitutional rights that must be protected. You have the freedom to oppose illegal search and seizure and unfair punishment. Also, you have a right to attorney representation. Police might force you to confess to a crime that you didn’t do or conduct an illegal search. These actions are a violation of your rights, and your attorney can file a Pitchess motion so that the arresting officer can be investigated for previous complaints like yours.

  1. Mistaken Identity 

Someone can falsely accuse you of breach of PC 464 or provide misleading evidence against you. In such cases, you can assert that the victim or witness is mistaking you for another person. If there is no evidence to support that you were the person who committed the crime like CCTV footage or eyewitnesses, the prosecution will have a weak case. They might decide to drop the charges or charge you with a lesser offense if your attorney negotiates appropriately.

  1. Claim of Right

It is also possible to claim that you entered the property not to commit a crime but to pick up something that belonged to you. Similarly, you can argue that you had a reasonable belief that the owner of the secured property had authorized you to access it.

Offenses Related to Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Even if your attorney succeeds in contesting the charge of the PC 464 violation, the prosecution could build other criminal cases against you concerning PC 464. Some of the crimes you might face in connection with PC 464 violation include:

Trespass

PC 602 defines trespass as accessing or getting into someone’s property without their permission. If you are facing PC 464 violation charges and the prosecution cannot prove attempt or breaking a safe or vault, your attorney can negotiate to have the offense reduced to trespassing. Trespassing is filed as an infraction or misdemeanor. Its penalties are light compared to those of burglary of a safe or vault conviction. If you made threats to the owner or inhabitants of the building, you would be subject to PC 601 violation charges.

Robbery

The offense is defined as forcefully taking another person’s property in their direct presence. You would be charged with robbery and PC 464 burglary if your actions were inspired by intent. PC 211 is filed as a felony and can attract a sentence of up to 60 months.

Possession of Burglary Tools

Under PC 466, it is a crime to have pliers, explosives, hammers, screwdrivers, and other burglary tools with intent to commit a crime. If you owned these tools during the arrest, you could be charged under PC 464 and PC 466.

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Burglary of a safe or vault is a severe offense that you don’t want to deal with on your own. For this reason, the Los Angele Criminal Attorney is committed to helping you fight the charges. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 424-333-0943 to speak to one of our attorneys today.