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Residential Burglary When the Resident is Home

Residential burglary occurs when someone enters the residence of another with the intent to steal or commit a felony inside the home. The “normal” burglary is one where the burglar enters the home by forcing some kind of entry. Entry into the home through a window or forcing a door open are both entries which establish, almost by common sense, the intent to commit a theft or some kind of a felony inside the house. These are “serious” crimes and are punishable under the “Three Strikes Law” as such. But, what happens when someone is home when the burglary happens?

Recently, a case came up where entry was made through a bedroom window. Once inside the burglar was in the process of stealing silverware from the kitchen when he decided maybe there were more valuable items to be found in the bedroom. When the burglar went into the bedroom he was shocked to find that a woman was in bed sleeping. He immediately left the home and was so shocked he didn’t even take the stolen loot with him. Does the fact that he didn’t know anyone was home make a difference? Add the fact that he left immediately and didn’t take anything with him and maybe the burglary didn’t even occur. Well, unfortunately for the burglar, the fact that he didn’t know someone was home and that he didn’t get any stolen property doesn’t make any difference at all.

The crime of burglary is established as soon as the burglar enters the home with the intent to steal. Even if he just walked in the front door, if he entered with the intent to steal, it’s a burglary. The big problem for the burglar who enters when someone is home, is that by definition it is a “violent” crime under the “Three Strikes Law”. When it comes to sentencing, the burglar must, except in unusual circumstances, go to State Prison. In addition, if he does go to State Prison he must serve 85% of whatever sentence he receives.

The public policy behind theses increased penalties is that when someone is home, the danger factor increases so much that even if no one is hurt, or the homeowner doesn’t even know the burglary happened, it is so dangerous that increased punishment is mandatory.