California has expanded its definition of burglary to include a broader scope of criminal activity.
In this expansion,  laws have been added to criminalize home invasion – a crime that is distinct from, but related to, burglary.
Home invasion is a type of burglary but it differs in that the act requires the premises invaded to be inhabited.
If you have been arrested and/or charged with home invasion in California I recommend you exercise your constitutional right to say nothing and immediately and explicitly ask to speak to an attorney, preferably one such as Pedro Bernal, who is experienced in home invasion cases.
Home invasion charges are very serious and one mistake could land you in jail for several years.

Understanding Home Invasion Laws

In California, a burglary is committed when a person enters a vehicle or building with the intent to commit a crime.
A home invasion – sometimes referred to as residential burglary – is essentially a burglary of a home that is inhabited. Home invasions are charged as First Degree Burglary in California, under Penal Code 460.
California takes charges of home invasion very seriously and applies a greater penalty to those convicted of the crime.
To be convicted on the charge of First Degree Burglary (home invasion) in California, the prosecution must prove:

  1. You entered a home or dwelling that was inhabited; and
  2. You entered with the specific intent to commit a theft or other crime.

When is a Home Inhabited?

California law defines “inhabited” as meaning a building that is “currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not.” Notice that the law does not require anybody to be present at the time of the crime.
It’s also important to note that a dwelling need not be a house or a apartment nor does it need to be a primary residence.
It can be a vacation home, RV, houseboat, or other premises used for dwelling purposes.
In some cases, a person may enter another’s home after a natural disaster – such as an earthquake or flood – causes a homeowner or tenant to vacate the premises.
home is not considered inhabited under California’s First Degree Burglary laws if a natural disaster causes the occupant(s) to vacate.

How is Intent Defined?

The second requirement of a home invasion is for the defendant to have the specific intent to commit a crime once inside the premises.
Generally, the prosecution will point to the facts and circumstances surrounding the home invasion to prove that there was intent to commit a crime.
This may include carrying a weapon, partially loading a bag or vehicle with items from the home, or tampering with an alarm system.
It is important to note that you do not actually have to commit the crime to be convicted of a home invasion in California.
Rather, a person is guilty of a home invasion when they merely have the intent to commit a crime upon entry into the dwelling.

Crimes Related to Home Invasion

If a prosecutor cannot prove their case that doesn’t mean you will not be charged.
They may still be able to charge you with and convict you of a related crime such as trespassing or unauthorized entry.
Trespassing. A trespass is committed when you (1) purposefully enter the property of another with the intent to trespass; (2) enter property of another with the intent to interfere with a business or the occupant’s well-being; (3) refuse to leave the property upon request; and/or (4) enter property with the intent to do physical damage.

Unauthorized Entry. Unauthorized entry is basically the crime of home invasion minus the intent to commit a subsequent crime. Unauthorized entry occurs when you enter or remain in a residence without the permission of the owner or occupant.
The crime of unauthorized entry is aggravated if the owner or occupant is present at the time of the entry.

What are the Penalties for Home Invasion?

Home invasion – or First Degree Burglary – is a serious crime in California. If convicted of this felony, a person may face between 2-6 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
In determining an appropriate sentence, the judge will take certain factors into consideration, such as (1) your prior criminal record, (2) prior home invasion convictions, (3) the seriousness of the crime you intended to commit, and (4) whether the occupants were home at the time of the invasion.
If the prosecution is unable to carry their burden of proof for charges of home invasion you may still face serious consequences if convicted of trespassing or unauthorized entry.
Unauthorized entry and trespass are generally misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
However, if a trespass is particularly dangerous or violent it may be charged as aggravated trespass.
Aggravated trespass can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

How to Defend Against Home Invasion Charges

Not all accusations of and charges for home invasion in California are legitimate.
As an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney, Pedro Bernal will review the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and alleged criminal behavior to determine which defenses may be applicable.
Some defenses to home invasion charges in California include:

  • Defendant lacked the intent to commit a crime inside the dwelling;
  • Defendant was mistakenly identified as the intruder; and
  • Defendant was lawfully present on the property.

California imposes serious consequences on those convicted on charges of home invasion.
If convicted, you could face serious time behind bars.
An experienced San Diego home invasion criminal defense attorney will build a case highlighting why you are not guilty of the charges, negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, and/or to reduce your sentence if you are convicted.
An investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest and alleged conduct is crucial to building a solid defense.