Vista Criminal Attorney employs unique approaches when solving different types of criminal cases. Our Vista-based law firm has some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the entire Southern California area. Our main practice areas include drug crimes, assault, and DUI. We also have extensive experience helping clients fight burglary charges including “burglary of a vault or safe” charges.

What is “Burglary of a Safe or Vault” Under California Law?

Penal Code 464 of the California Constitution highlights that it’s a crime to break into a vault or safe. The offense can be committed by using explosives or approaches such as safe cracking and safe blowing. Such a crime can occur when you enter business premises with the intent to commit petty theft or grand theft crimes. Your case may be built from the fact that you attempted to secure a safe or vault containing valuables.

"Burglary of a vault or safe" is a form of burglary covered under Penal Code 459. A burglary offense can be defined as entering a commercial/residential room or building intending to commit theft or felony once you get inside. Buildings/rooms covered under PC 459 include warehouses, shops, tenements, apartments, stores, and outhouses. PC 459 highlights the guidelines for general burglary cases in California while PC 464 highlights the guidelines for “burglary of a vault or safe” cases in California.

The owner of the safe or vault may press charges whether the property was inhabited or not at the time you committed the offense. The California laws recognize forceful entry in a building and opening or trying to break a safe as separate offenses. California’s burglary code defines "torch" as an act of using devices that produce heat to crack a safe. Explosives used to commit this crime may include gunpowder, dynamite, and nitroglycerine.

Does “Burglary of a Safe or Vault” Qualify as First-degree or Second-Degree Burglary in California?

California burglary laws are listed on Penal Codes 458 to 464. Burglary offenses in California can either be handled as first-degree or second-degree burglary. Cases that qualify as first-degree burglary involve residences while those that fall under second-degree burglary involve business establishments and stores. Second-degree burglary charges have lighter punitive measures than first-degree burglary charges since they’re handled as a wobbler (a crime prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony).

Residences mentioned under the first-degree burglary law include an occupied motel or hotel room and an occupied portion of a building. Others examples include an inhabited trailer coach, floating home, boat, house or room within a house. The crime scene must have inhabitants for your case to qualify as burglary.

Prosecutors could handle your case as first-degree burglary if you intended to break into a safe or vault securely installed in a residence. They can also consider the case as second-degree burglary if the offense took place at a store or business area. A second-degree burglary can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. On the other hand, first-degree burglary is usually prosecuted as a felony.

Does the Act of “Breaking and Entering” Contribute to “Burglary of a Safe or Vault Charges”?

Penal Code 464 recognizes burglary of a safe or vault as the illegal act of opening or attempting to open a safe, vault or another secure place. This law lists an oxygen lance, burning bar or an electric arc as the devices used to break into a safe. California laws don’t consider “breaking and entering” is a separate crime. However, this concept helps prosecutors build cases on different criminal acts including burglary.

What’s the Arrest Process for a ‘Burglary of a Safe or Vault” Case in California?

Police officers respond fast to any burglary incidents. If you qualify as a suspect, they won’t hesitate to arrest you since a “burglary of a vault or safe” crime is considered as a felony in California. They’ll also investigate the case, assess evidence and approach witnesses before apprehending you.

Law enforcement officers usually initiate burglary arrests a few minutes or hours after the crime occurs. The apprehension process might take days if the suspect went to hiding after committing the offense. When arrested, they’ll take you into custody as you wait for court arraignment. They’ll also ask you to call your criminal lawyer or hire one to help you fight these charges.

What Rights Do You Have When Facing “Burglary of a Vault or Safe” Charges?

Section 24 Article 1 of the California constitution highlights the defendant’s rights in any criminal case in California. The law states that you have the right to legal representation and that you’re entitled to a public and speedy trial. You also have the right to compel witness attendance and confront any witnesses testifying against you. Other rights include fair punishment, freedom to oppose unreasonable seizures and searches and privacy.

What is the Court Process for “Burglary of a Safe or Vault in California?

California courts follow a strict procedure for criminal defense cases including burglary of a safe or vault. The process involves arraignment, pre-trial, motions, and trial. Your situation may take weeks to months to solve. Here are the steps involved in the court process for “burglary of a vault or safe” charges.

  1. Arraignment

After your arrest, the California Constitution mandates that you should appear before a judge. During this first court appearance, you'll have your charges read to you by a California court judge. Expect to be asked to enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or no contest. You may be allowed to post bail or be notified about future hearings at this stage.

  1. Pre-trial

Courts use pre-trial hearings to assess the progress of your case. At this stage, the court may decide to solve any arising issues related to your situation. Your lawyer and the prosecution team can also be given adequate time to develop their defenses.

  1. Motions and Readiness Hearing

The court may allow various legal motions after determining the type of charges you’re facing. For a readiness hearing, both parties get to inform the court that they’re ready to go to trial. The court may resolve or continue your case at this stage.

  1. Trial

You have two trial options when your "burglary of a vault or safe" case proceeds to trial. You can choose a bench trial, which involves a judge deciding your fate. The California Constitution also allows you to select a jury trial, which includes a jury deciding your case.

Should You Disclose Any Confidential Communications You Had with an Attorney to a Jury?

Evidence Code 954 of the California laws states that defendants don’t need to share any confidential conversations between them and their attorney in a jury trial. The same applies to the lawyer representing you. This “attorney-client privilege” law is part of the “right to counsel” law under the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

You must be willing to share any relevant details with your attorney for the "attorney-client privilege" to work. For your "burglary of a vault or safe" case, you need to narrate to your lawyer the events that took occurred at the crime scene. The prosecution team may find incriminating information about you and use it to increase your charges. Your lawyer might experience difficulties trying to challenge these accusations if you failed to honor the attorney-client privilege.

What Penalties Will You Face for a Burglary of a Safe or Vault” Crime in California?

Any burglary offense that involves torching or blowing a safe qualifies as a felony in California. Potential punitive measures include formal probation and a $10,000 fine. You also get to serve from three to seven years locked in a county jail while undertaking a realignment program. Felony burglary can also be treated as a deportable crime for immigrants.

Formal Probation

Formal probation is a type of sentencing suited for felons in California. With this kind of punishment, you get to serve your sentencing partly or entirely in a chosen community while supervised. The exercise takes a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years. The judge may dismiss your probation and sentence you to jail or prison time if you disobey the probation requirements.

Undertake a Realignment Program

The realignment bill came into law back in 2011 to reduce the sentencing of defendants. You may benefit from the realignment program when facing burglary charges. In this case, you’ll serve time in local county jail instead of being locked up in a state-operated prison. However, the sentencing period remains the same.

Face Deportation

Crimes such as burglary of a vault or safe may increase your chances of being deported if you’re a non-citizen. The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will facilitate your deportation if your crime is intense. Besides deportation, you risk facing inadmissibility challenges. This means that the DHS may forbid you from re-entering the country once deported or revoke any citizenship application made by you.

What Do Prosecutors Rely on to Build Your “Burglary of a Vault or Safe” Case?

Prosecutors should give proof that you unlawfully entered a building/secured place with the intention of breaking into a vault/safe or succeeded to break into the vault/safe. They need to prove that the owner didn’t authorize the entrance and that the vault/safe was in a secured place. Their case should be built on your intention or actions to commit the crime. Explained below are four elements the prosecution team uses to charge you.

  1. The Owner Didn’t Authorize the Entrance

PC 464 considers entering into a secured place without any form of authorization as a crime. Authorization may include approval or permission issued to you by the owner. If you entered a house or commercial building intending to break a safe, the owner could press charges if he/she doesn’t recognize you. Prosecutors may use legal documents indicating the list of people permitted to enter a particular place.

  1. The Incident Occurred in a Secured Place

Safes and vaults are usually stored in secure places to restrict unauthorized access. Your crime qualifies as burglary of a safe or vault if the prosecutors prove that you broke into the restricted area.  The prosecution team may rely on evidence such as camera footage, which reveals that you committed the offense. Witness statements and safe/vault documentation can also qualify as evidence.

  1. Intent

Prosecutors should present proof that you expressed interest in breaking a safe or vault before entering a secured area. For instance, they may use footage from security cameras at the crime scene showing your nervousness. They may also charge you depending on the means you used to access the place. Using force to break into the area may imply that you intended to crack the safe or vault.

What Legal Defenses Can a Lawyer Use in a “Burglary of a Vault or Safe” Case?

Prosecutors employ tactical and cunning means to implicate you of burglary charges. Your lawyer must keep up with their efforts by using certain legal defenses. For instance, lack of intent can serve as a legal defense for your case. Here are other arguments that may work in your favor.

  1. Lack of Specific “Intent”

Your case may be worth pursuing if the prosecutors manage to prove that your actions were intentional. You may only be found guilty of “burglary of a vault or safe” charges if you got into a particular building with a goal of committing an offense once you’re inside. Circumstantial evidence can help the prosecutors succeed in proving specific intent.

  1. Police Misconduct

Police officers may act in violation of your rights when trying to solve the case. They may coerce your confession or carry out unlawful searches on your property. Evidence planting or fabrication may also qualify as police misconduct. Your attorney can file a Pitchess Motion concerning this defense. The motion allows the court to determine whether the police officer previously had the same complaints made by other people.

  1. Mistaken Identity

The court might accept this defense if there were false allegations or misleading evidence against you. Mistaken identity can also be a defense for proving your innocence in a “burglary of a vault or safe” case. The prosecutor might decide to reduce or even get charges entirely dropped.

  1. Claim of Right

This defense can be used to prove that you didn't intend to break in the vault or safe. Your legal expert may propose that you entered the building to retrieve an item that belonged to you. The attorney can also prove you were sure that the owner permitted you to recover the property.

Crimes Related to “Burglary of a Vault or Safe” Charges

Your freedom is still at stake when your lawyer succeeds in challenging the prosecutor's allegations against you. Note that prosecutors may find a crime to implicate you even if the court dismissed the previous one. Here are charges you may face with respect to your PC 464 case.

  1. Burglary (PC 459)

The California law on burglary classifies this offense as either a first-degree or a second-degree crime. The first-degree one can take place in a residence while the second-degree one can occur in establishments or stores. Penalties for first-degree charges on burglary include a two to six-year state imprisonment. The court can handle second-degree charges of this crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

  1. Trespass (PC 602)

PC 602 defines trespass as the unlawful act of getting into someone else’s property without seeking their consent. Your "burglary of a vault or safe" case may be reduced to trespass if your attorney succeeds to negotiate with the prosecution team. California courts consider trespass as either an infraction or a misdemeanor. They might convict you under PC 601 for aggravated trespass if you threatened the building's inhabitants or owner.

  1. Robbery (PC 211)

 Robbery entails forcefully taking someone else's property in their immediate presence. Your criminal record might include robbery and PC 464 burglary if your actions were motivated by intention. The charges still apply if you used fear, intimidation or force to steal the item. Under Penal Code 211, robbery qualifies as a felony with penalties including up to 5 years state imprisonment.

  1. Having Burglary Tools in Your Possession (PC 466)

Pliers, crowbars, and screwdrivers among others qualify as burglary tools. Having the tools listed on PC 466 in your possession with the intention of using them is a misdemeanor crime. Penal Code 466 also states that it's illegal to make alterations on a key belonging to someone else without consent. The prosecutor might accuse you of PCs 464 and 466 offenses if you had burglary tools in your possession when you were apprehended. 

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

“Burglary of a safe or vault” charges are quite difficult to fight on your own. Consider getting a criminal defense lawyer to explain to you the odds that are in your favor regarding the case. At Vista Criminal Attorney, it is our commitment to help formulate legal defense strategies for clients facing criminal charges across Southern California. You can call us at 760-691-1551 for a free consultation or schedule a face to face case evaluation.