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Santa Maria Breaking And Entering


Breaking and Entering – Sanford Horowitz Criminal Defense, P.C.

Located close to the coast of Southern California, Santa Maria sits in Santa Barbara County and has a population of just over 100,000 residents, making this the largest city in the county. Situated in winemaking country, Santa Maria is known for its wineries, as well as it scenic position in Santa Maria Valley. This strategic location, as well as its proximity to the coast, means that there are a wealth of attractions to enjoy in and around Santa Maria including rolling dunes, parks, seaside piers, and engaging local museums. The city is a great attraction, although when more strangers are in the city the chances of “breaking and entering” increase.

Under California Penal Code 459, “breaking and entering” commonly referred to as burglary, is a felony. Burglary is the entering of another person’s residential or commercial dwelling with intent to commit theft or a felony. Although this crime is commonly referred to as breaking and entering, forced entry or breaking, these actions are no longer necessary for you to be convicted of burglary in California.

If you have been arrested for “breaking and entering”, it does not mean that you are guilty. It’s important to vigorously fight a “breaking and entering” charge because a criminal conviction will stay on your record and can adversely affect job and educational opportunities down the road.

A former Prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Offices in Santa Barbara and San Diego Counties, Sanford Horowitz and his legal team will offer you a free consultation, investigate the evidence against you, and recommend practical steps to achieve the best possible results in your case.

Breaking and Entering & Burglary

Although breaking and entering isn’t its own crime in Santa Maria, understanding what is meant by “breaking” and “entering” can help to explain the actual laws that it typically refers to, specifically burglary and trespassing.

“Breaking” refers to gaining entry into a structure with the use of force or fraud. Although “breaking” used to be a requirement of a burglary conviction in Santa Maria, it was eliminated in the 1800s and you can now be convicted of burglary without breaking into a structure in order to commit theft or another felony.

“Entering” refers to entry into a building or structure with any part of your body or another object, whether or not you enter completely or directly. For example, reaching inside a building with the use of a tool is considered “entering” because the outer boundary of the building has been crossed, even if your body still remains on the outside of the building. It is a crime to possess lock picks, crowbars, screwdrivers, master keys, spark plug pieces, or any other tool or instrument with the intent to break into a building or vehicle.

You do not need to enter a home or a business in order to be guilty or breaking and entering. This is a common misconception, as we tend to associate breaking and entering with entry into a home or a business complex. However, in these cases, courts define the term “building” very broadly, allowing for the inclusion of structures such as storage units, loading docks and even phone booths. Auto burglary is unique in that the car must be locked in order for the defendant to be guilty of the crime. However, this is not true of any other building or “premises.” The following examples could result in burglary charges:

  • Breaking a car window in order to steal money inside;
  • Walking into another’s house to steal food or other items (this can be considered breaking and entering even if the doors were left unlocked or open;
  • Entering a private office in order to commit a violent felony offense; or 
  • Breaking into a storage unit in order to commit theft.
  • Entering a closed bank to commit robbery.

Burglary and robbery both often involve theft, but there are several differences between the two crimes. Burglary involves the unlawful entry into a structure whereas robbery does not. Robbery involves the use of force or fear upon another person to obtain property whereas burglary does not. Both crimes carry varying penalties upon conviction depending on the circumstances of the crime.


In order to be convicted of burglary in California, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  • “Entered” a building or premise either partially or completely; AND
  • Did so with the intent to commit theft or a felony

It is not necessary for the defendant to have “broken” into the premises nor for the defendant to have successfully completed or fully carried out the theft or felony so long as the intent can be proven.

First degree burglary is always a felony in the state of California. Penalties for a first degree burglary conviction are:

  • a two, four, or six-year sentence in a state prison; and
  • a “strike” on the defendant’s record.

Under California’s Three Strikes Law, if you receive a strike for a felony conviction, such as burglary and you are convicted of a second felony, the prison sentence for the second felony will be doubled. A third strike (a third felony conviction) will result in a life sentence.

Second degree burglary is a “wobbler” charge in California, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the details of the case including the value of the stolen items.

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor second degree burglary conviction is:

  • one year in county jail; and
  • a fine of $1,000

Penalties for a felony second degree burglary conviction are:

  • a 16-month, two-year, or three-year sentence in a state prison

It is possible to have a felony second degree burglary charge reduced to a misdemeanor, especially if the total value of the stolen good totals less than $950.


A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to raise several legal defenses to PC 459. Some of these defenses might include:


You have an alibi to show that you are not the person that the prosecution claims committed the burglary.


You never entered another person’s dwelling because you never crossed the structures outer boundary.


You did not intend to commit theft or any felony crime before you entered the dwelling or vehicle.


If there is a weakness or inconsistency in the evidence presented by the prosecution, your attorney may be able to challenge its validity. 

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