Burglary is a serious crime in California, and the burglary of a safe or vault is no exception. Per California Penal Code 464, you commit a burglary of a safe or vault when you enter a secure space without permission and intend to steal valuable items. The safe or vault must have been used to secure these items for the offense to qualify as burglary under PC 464.
If you are charged with a PC 464 violation, you want to take certain steps to protect your legal rights. You should consider working with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your legal options and build a strong defense. Your attorney could challenge the prosecution's evidence, negotiate a plea deal, or take your case to trial.
At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we understand the seriousness of PC 464 charges and are committed to helping our clients protect their freedom and future. Our experienced criminal defense team has a proven track record of success in defending against burglary of a safe or vault charges. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you fight back against these charges.
How Does California Law Define “Burglary Of A Safe Or Vault”?
California PC 464 defines burglary of a safe or vault as the act of entering any secure space, including a safe or vault, with the intent to steal property, money, or valuable items. The entry must be made without permission, and the safe or vault must be used for securing valuable items.
Before your conviction, the prosecution must prove that you intended to steal something when you entered the safe or vault. They must also prove that you had no right or permission to enter the secure space. If the prosecution cannot prove all of these elements, the court cannot convict you.
Elements of the Crime
For the court to convict you, the prosecution must prove particular elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:
There Was No Authorization of Entry by the Property’s Owner
The prosecutor must prove that you entered the secure space without permission or legal rights. This means that if the property owner authorized your entry into the safe or vault, the court cannot find you guilty of burglary of a safe or vault under PC 464. However, the authorization must be valid and legal.
For example, if the property owner authorized your entry with the intent to commit theft, you can still be convicted. If you are charged and you believe that you had permission or a legal right to enter the secure space, your criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that this element of the crime has not been met.
The Incident Occurred in a Secure Place
The incident must have occurred in a secure place, such as a safe or vault, that was used to secure money, property, or other valuable items to be convicted of a PC 464 violation. If you entered a secure space that was not used for this purpose, you could not face conviction.
Also, the secure place must be locked, and you must have broken into it or found a way to open it without permission. However, if you had legal access to the secure place or if it was not locked, the element of the crime may not be met.
The prosecution must prove that you entered the secure space with the intent to commit theft or another felony. This means that if you entered the secure place without the intent to commit theft or another felony, you cannot be convicted of burglary of a safe or vault under PC 464.
However, if the prosecution can prove that you had the intent to commit theft or another felony when entering the secure place, the element of intent has been met.
Proving intent can be challenging for the prosecution, as it requires showing what was going on in your mind at the time of entry. If the prosecution cannot prove that you had the intent to commit theft or another felony, your criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that this element cannot hold water.
Used an Explosive or Any Other Device that Can Open a Safe
California Penal Code 464 includes a specific element related to the use of an explosive or another device to open a safe or vault. If you used an explosive, torch, picklock, or any other device to open the safe or vault, you can face charges.
Note that the use of an explosive device is not necessary for a charge of burglary of a safe or vault. You could still be charged and convicted if you broke into the secure space by other means, such as breaking the lock or using a duplicate key.
However, if you used an explosive device to gain access to the safe or vault, the prosecution may seek harsher penalties due to the increased danger and potential for property damage or harm to others.
Does “Burglary of a Safe or Vault” Qualify as First-degree or Second-Degree Burglary in California?
Under California law, burglary can be either first- or second-degree, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime. The classification of the burglary charge affects the potential penalties and sentencing guidelines.
The burglary of a safe or vault is considered first-degree burglary. First-degree burglary is a more serious offense than second-degree burglary. It involves unlawful entry into any structure other than a residence, such as a store or commercial building.
First-degree burglary involves entering a residence, another inhabited dwelling, or any structure used for the habitation of people with the intent to commit theft or another felony. The use of an explosive or another device to open a safe or vault is not necessary to qualify as first-degree burglary if the burglary occurred in a residence or inhabited structure.
If convicted of first-degree burglary of a safe or vault, you face a potential sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison. The potential sentence increases to three, six, or eight years if you use an explosive or other device to gain access to the safe or vault.
The Arrest Process in a Penal Code 464 Violation
If you are arrested for burglary of a safe or vault, the following steps show the arrest process:
Arrest and Booking
The arrest process typically begins with the police obtaining a warrant for your arrest or arresting you at the scene of the crime. Once in custody, you will be taken to the police station for booking. Booking involves documenting your personal information, taking your fingerprints and photograph, and conducting a criminal background check.
After booking, you are held in custody until your arraignment, which is your first court appearance. During the arraignment, the charges against you will be read, and you will have the opportunity to enter a plea.
Following the arraignment, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled. The preliminary hearing is where the prosecution presents evidence to establish probable cause that you committed the crime. Your defense attorney can challenge the evidence and cross-examine witnesses during the preliminary hearing.
If the judge determines there is sufficient evidence to move forward with the case, a trial will be scheduled. At trial, the prosecution will present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the burglary of a safe or vault. Your defense attorney will challenge the evidence and present your defense.
If you are found guilty or plead guilty to a violation of PC 464, you will be sentenced.
Your Legal Rights When Subject to Violation of Penal Code 464 Charges
The following are some of the key rights you have:
The Right to Remain Silent
You have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself when questioned by law enforcement. This means you do not have to answer any questions, and you can request an attorney be present during any questioning.
The Right to an Attorney
You have the right to an attorney at all stages of the criminal process, including during questioning by law enforcement, the arraignment, the preliminary hearing, and the trial. You want to exercise this right and have an experienced criminal defense attorney represent you, protect your rights, and develop a strong defense strategy.
The Right to a Fair Trial
You have the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to a jury trial, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to present a defense. Your defense attorney can challenge the prosecution's evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and present your defense.
The Right to Appeal
If you are convicted of a violation of PC 464, you have the right to appeal the conviction. An appeal allows a higher court to review the trial court's decision and potentially overturn the conviction or sentence.
The Right to Due Process
You have the right to due process, which means that the government must follow fair and just procedures when investigating and prosecuting a crime. This includes the right to a speedy trial, the right to be informed of the charges against you, and the right to a fair and impartial judge.
Does the Act of “Breaking and Entering” Contribute to “Burglary of a Safe or Vault Charges”?
Under California law, the crime of burglary involves entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a theft or felony. The act of breaking and entering is not required for a burglary charge to be filed, as simply entering the structure unlawfully is sufficient to meet the legal standard. However, the use of force or tools to gain entry can aggravate the offense and potentially result in more severe penalties.
It is worth noting that burglary of a safe or vault involves additional elements beyond a standard burglary charge. In addition to unlawfully entering the structure with the intent to commit a theft or felony, you must have targeted a safe or vault specifically and either used explosives or other tools to gain access to the safe or vault.
What are the Penalties?
Burglary of a safe or vault is a serious felony offense in California, with potentially severe penalties for those convicted. The specific penalties will depend on the circumstances surrounding your offense, including the value of the property stolen and your criminal history.
As mentioned above, burglary of a safe or vault is typically classified as a first-degree burglary offense. If convicted, the offender can face a sentence of two, four, or six years in state prison, fines, and restitution payments. If explosives or other dangerous tools were used in the commission of the offense, the penalties can be even more severe, including a potential life sentence.
In addition to the criminal penalties, a conviction for burglary of a safe or vault can have long-lasting consequences, including difficulty finding employment, obtaining housing, or other challenges related to having a criminal record.
Felony Probation in California
In some cases, you may be able to avoid a prison sentence and instead be sentenced to felony probation. Felony probation in California requires the offender to adhere to certain conditions and restrictions set by the court, such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, community service, and drug or alcohol treatment programs.
If granted felony probation for a burglary of a safe or vault offense, you will also likely face additional conditions, such as restitution payments to the victim or completion of a program related to financial management. Violating the terms of felony probation can result in you being sent to prison to serve your original sentence.
Common Probation Conditions
The conditions of probation vary depending on the nature of the offense and your criminal history. However, some common probation conditions are likely to be imposed for a burglary of a safe or vault offense in California. These include:
- Reporting regularly to a probation officer: You are required to report to a probation officer regularly to discuss your progress and ensure you are complying with the conditions of your probation.
- Avoiding illegal activity: You must refrain from engaging in any further criminal activity during your probation period.
- Submitting to searches: Probation officers may search your home, car, or person at any time to ensure they are not violating the terms of their probation.
- Completing community service: You may be required to complete a certain number of community service hours, typically within a specified timeframe.
- Attending counseling or treatment programs: You may be required to attend counseling or treatment programs, such as drug or alcohol rehabilitation, anger management, or financial management courses.
- Paying restitution: You may be required to pay restitution to the victim or victims of the crime, either in a lump sum or through a payment plan.
The California Realignment Program
The California Realignment Program, also known as Assembly Bill 109, was implemented in 2011 as a response to the state's overcrowded prisons. The program shifted the responsibility for certain non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenses from the state prison system to county jails and probation departments.
A safe or vault burglary is considered a "non-serious" or "non-violent" offense under the Realignment Program. This means that offenders convicted of this offense may be sentenced to serve their time in a county jail rather than a state prison.
Additionally, under the Realignment Program, offenders sentenced to county jail for burglary of a safe or vault may be eligible for early release or alternative sentencing programs, such as home confinement or community service.
Are there Legal Defenses to PC 464 Charges?
If you have been charged with burglary of a safe or vault, several legal defenses may be available to you. These include:
If you did not have the intent to commit burglary of a safe or vault before entering a building, you may have a valid legal defense. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the intent to commit burglary of a safe or vault before entering the building. If there is insufficient evidence to support this claim, your charges may be dismissed.
For example, if you entered a building intending to pick up an item left behind and did not intend to commit a burglary of a safe or vault. Therefore, you could use this as a defense against PC 464 charges. Also, note that the burden of proof lies on the prosecutor, not on you as the defendant.
You Acted Under Duress
If there is evidence to suggest that you were coerced or forced to commit the crime, you could use this as a defense. For instance, if you were threatened with harm to yourself or a loved one and this led you to enter the building to commit a burglary of a safe or vault against your will, then the court cannot convict you.
Mistaken of Facts
If you entered the property with the belief that you were authorized to do so, this can be used to prove that you lacked the intent to commit a burglary. For instance, if an employee of a bank enters the vault outside of normal working hours to retrieve the money they believe is needed for an urgent matter, they could argue that they believed they were authorized to do so and thus had no intention to commit a burglary. Similarly, if you mistakenly believed that the property was abandoned, you could argue that you lacked the intent to commit a burglary.
Factual innocence is a defense that involves proving that you did not commit the crime of burglary of a safe or vault. You can raise this defense when you have evidence that someone else committed the crime or when the prosecution has no evidence to connect you to the crime. You can also use this defense when you are misidentified as the perpetrator.
To prove your factual innocence, you need to provide evidence that supports your claim that you did not commit the crime. This can include alibis, eyewitness testimony, or video footage. If you can prove your factual innocence, the charges against you will be dismissed. However, proving factual innocence can be challenging, and it is essential to have a skilled attorney by your side to help you through the legal process.
No Vault or Safe
A key element of the burglary of a safe or vault charge is the presence of a safe or vault. So, if there was no safe or vault present, you cannot be charged under California Penal Code 464 PC. However, it is still possible to be charged with other burglary offenses, such as burglary of a residence or burglary of a commercial building, if you entered a property with the intent to commit theft or another crime.
Unfortunately, instances of police misconduct are not unheard of in criminal cases, including those involving charges under California Penal Code 464 PC. If the police acted improperly during the investigation or arrest process, bring this to the attention of your defense attorney.
Examples of police misconduct include:
- Using excessive force during an arrest.
- Falsifying evidence or witness statements.
- Conducting an illegal search and seizure.
- Making false promises or threats to coerce a confession.
If your defense attorney can prove that the police acted improperly, this could potentially result in the dismissal of your charges or a reduction in your penalties.
If you are facing charges for possession of burglary tools or robbery, you may be able to use an alibi defense to show that you were not present at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. However, you must provide evidence that you were in a different location at the time the crime was committed. For example, witness statements, surveillance footage, or other documentation that shows your whereabouts at the time of the offense.
Are there Related Offenses to PC 464?
There are related offenses to PC 464, including:
Burglary, Penal Code 459
Burglary is a related offense to the burglary of a vault or safe. The main difference between the two charges is the nature of the item being burglarized. While PC 464 specifically pertains to safes or vaults, PC 459 covers burglary of any structure, including homes, businesses, and other types of buildings.
Possession of Burglary Tools, Penal Code 466
Penal Code 466 defines possession of burglary tools as having in your possession any tool or instrument that is capable of being used to break into any structure or vehicle, with the intent to use the tool to commit a burglary or theft.
If you are convicted of possession of burglary tools under Penal Code 466, you may face a sentence of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, if you are found in possession of certain types of tools, such as a picklock or crowbar, you may be charged with a felony offense and face a more severe sentence.
California Penal Code 18720, Possessing Destructive Device Materials
California Penal Code 18720 pertains to the possession of materials used for making explosive or destructive devices. Under this statute, it is illegal to possess any substance or device that can be used to make explosives or destructive devices, including detonators, fuses, and explosive precursors. Possession of these materials is considered a felony offense and is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.
Duplication of a Key to a State Building, Penal Code 469
California Penal Code 469 prohibits the duplication of keys to state buildings without authorization. This offense is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to one year. If the key was duplicated with the intent to commit a felony, the offense can be charged as a felony and result in imprisonment in state prison for up to three years.
California Penal Code 18710, Possessing Destructive Devices
Under California Penal Code 18710, it is illegal to possess destructive devices. A destructive device refers to any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, or other similar device that has been modified or designed to cause substantial damage to property or injury to people. Possession of such devices is a felony offense and can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment in state prison for up to six years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are facing charges related to the burglary of a safe or vault in Chula Vista, you likely wonder how the prosecution will prove their case against you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the legal system and build a strong defense against these charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we have handled many PC 464 violation cases. We have had some of our clients’ cases dismissed and others lowered. Speak with a criminal attorney today and have your case reviewed at 619-877-6894.