Common law (law derived from court decisions rather than statutes) originally defined burglary as the unlawful breaking and entering of another person’s dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony. The California Penal Code broadened the definition to include buildings and other structures, not just homes, and any time of day, not just nighttime.

Federal law defines burglary in the same way as California; however, if the structure or building broken and entered into is federally protected, e.g. a bank, the defendant may be charged with Federal and state burglary. The defendant would then face separate trials, convictions, and sentencing under both Federal and state jurisdictions.

Federal and state burglary is separated into elements, or parts, of the crime; if any element is not proven, the defendant cannot be convicted. Burglary must be committed with specific intent, or the desire to accomplish the resulting crime. The intent must exist simultaneously with the act. For example, if, when the defendant broke and entered, he or she lacked intent to commit a crime once inside, intent fails; consequently, a burglary conviction fails. 

Burden of Proof

Federal and state crimes require the same burden of proof, which is the legal standard to which a party must prove its case; the burden of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt.” The prosecution must prove every element of burglary beyond a reasonable doubt to achieve a conviction. Your Fresno burglary attorney will discuss reasonable doubt with you.


A Federal and/or state conviction is punishable by imprisonment and/or fines. The length of imprisonment is determined by whether the conviction is in the first or second degree, and whether the defendant has prior convictions.

Retaining Counsel

If you are facing burglary charges, please consult our Fresno, CA burglary attorney. Do not speak to anyone about your case without your attorney present to preserve your rights. Anything you say may be used against you at trial or other legal proceedings.

Your advocate should be experienced in Federal and California burglary because court procedures differ in the respective courts. With your life and liberty at stake, you need a criminal attorney specializing in burglary to zealously represent you.