Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Legal Defense When You've Been Charged with Burglary of a Safe or Vault

In the State of California burglary, (a form of theft) is separated from general types of theft and is also broken down into different kinds of burglary. Based on how the crime was committed, charges will vary as well as the levels of penalization. California Penal Code 464 states it is illegal to burglarize a safe by using explosives or any torch device. The Penal Code refers to both vaults and safes.

In the State of California burglary, (a form of theft) is separated from general types of theft and is also broken down into different kinds of burglary. Based on how the crime was committed, charges will vary as well as the levels of penalization. California Penal Code 464 states it is illegal to burglarize a safe by using explosives or any torch device. The Penal Code refers to both vaults and safes.

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Definition of Burglary under California Law

California Penal Code 459 states burglary consists of entering a building with the full intent of committing a felony once you are inside. The building you enter can be either residential or commercial and even if theft is not completed; the intent to steal once inside constitutes burglary.

The Penal Code 459 lists any tenement, apartment, house, room, store, stable, warehouse, shop, barn, mill, outhouse, or any other building, tent, or vessel that is entered with an intent to commit petit larceny, grand larceny or any felony is considered burglary. The crime of burglary is divided into two degrees.

  • First-degree burglary is committing the crime in a residence.
  • Second-degree burglary occurs in any other type of structure.

Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014, distinguishes shoplifting as a separate form of crime from that listed under Penal Code 459 . Shoplifting falls under Penal Code 459.5 and occurs when a person enters an open business with the intent to steal materials worth $950.00 or less.

If convicted of first-degree burglary in California, you are facing consequences which could include prison time from two, four, or six years. A second-degree burglary conviction is a 'wobbler' which means, you could be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor. If the prosecution decides charges are serious enough to charge you with a felony, your sentence could be jail time of sixteen months, two years, or three years. If charged as a misdemeanor, your sentence could include jail time of up to one year.

Contact a criminal defense attorney if charged with any form of burglary. An experienced attorney can help you identify common legal defenses used against Penal Code 459 and protect your rights and future.

Burglary under Penal Code 459 versus Burglary of a Safe or Vault

California Penal Code 464 covers the burglary of a safe or vault and is considered a crime of burglary with the use of explosives. Committing a crime using acetylene torches, explosives or other similar devices to open a vault, safe, or another secure place is more serious under the law. This offense is a felony no matter what the targeted location is; residential or commercial. If convicted of this crime, you are facing three, five, or seven years in a state prison.

Legal Definition of Burglary of a Safe or Vault

California Penal Code 464 defines the burglary of a safe or vault when you:

  • Have entered the building
  • When inside the structure, you've attempted or have opened a secure place such as a vault or safe
  • Opened or attempted to open the secure place with the use of explosives or a torch
  • Entered the building with the specific intent to commit a crime

You can be charged under Penal Code 464 whether the building is vacant or inhibited. If you are caught entering the structure with explosives during the day or at night, you can be charged. This charge is different than California burglary law which applies different penalties for commercial versus residential burglary charges. It also only applies if you have actually entered the structure. Under this Penal Code, you must have first entered the structure and then attempted or actually opened the secure area.

California considers a burglary of a safe or vault to have used an acetylene torch or burning bar, electric arc, oxygen lance, thermal lance or other similar devices that are capable of burning through a solid substance such as concrete or steel. Explosives include nitroglycerine, gunpowder, or other explosive materials.

Laws Regarding Possession of Tools

States all have their laws criminalizing the possession of tools that are capable of being used to force entry into a structure, vault, or safe. These tools are considered to show intent that you plan to use them to commit a burglary, theft, or to trespass. Tools which are found to be burglary tools or burglarious tools have laws in many states to be proof of intent when charging one with a crime.

Burglary tools can be defined as an instrument, device, or another object that has been designed, modified, or are one commonly used to force entry into a structure and used for theft of items. There are some states which have created statues containing a list of prohibited items that when found in your possession show an intent to commit burglary. The intention must be proven that you were going to use the tool to force an entry. For example, blacksmiths who carry tools to pick locks are not committing a crime as they are tools of their trade. If you are bringing these same tools and attempting to enter a building not part of your personal property or one you have been hired to open, these tools are then burglarious tools and possessing them is a part of your crime.

The tools found in your possession at the time of arrest can be used against you as evidence when charged with burglary. For example, if you are found on someone else's property which had been locked with a padlock, and you have a bolt cutter or crowbar in your possession, the prosecutor can show proof of your intent. These are some of the tools considered burglary tools:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammers
  • Crowbars or other devices used to pry open objects
  • Bolt cutters
  • Tools that are able to burn through steel or concrete such as torches
  • Explosives
  • Ceramic spark plugs

Possession of Destructive Devices or Material

California Penal Code 18710 was enacted in recognition of the potential damage which can be done by destructive devices or explosives. The damage these materials can cause is immense, even when discharged accidentally. The Penal Code 18710 prohibits any unauthorized possession of these deadly devices, and Penal Code 18720 covers the possession of destructive device materials.

The prosecution must prove these points in order for the courts to find you guilty under California law:

  • You possessed a destructive device or materials
  • You knew these devices or materials were in your possession
  • You knew the destructive possibilities of these devices or material

The list of destructive devices is not really clear but the Penal Code 16460 lists items that can be considered destructive devices including these:

  • A Molotov cocktail
  • Working cannon or other device containing a caliber more than 0.60 (excluding a shotgun, antique cannon, or antique rifle)
  • Incendiary or tracer bullets (excluding those made for use in shotguns)
  • An explosive missile, grenade, any bomb or a similar device used in launching explosive projectiles
  • A rocket launcher
  • Any sealed device which contains dry ice assembled for an intended purpose of making an explosion

The list of destructive device material is also listed under Penal Code 18720 and includes:

  • Gunpowder
  • Chemicals used to trigger explosives when combined with other agents
  • Fertilizer
  • Blasting caps

If you or someone you know has been charged with the possession of destructive materials or device, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. We can help you prove you did not knowingly possess the material or devices, or that you did not know the extent of damage these materials can cause. If the items you are charged with are considered antique, your attorney can help establish this fact. It may also be these items were discovered while authorities performed an improper search and it was not done with probable cause. If either of these is discovered in your case, an experienced criminal attorney can have evidence of destructive materials suppressed from your charges.

The prosecution will have to prove your possession of these materials is proof of your intent to commit a crime. For example, it is not illegal to own large amounts of fertilizer when living in a rural area. It would be the burden of the prosecution to prove you specifically own this material with the intent to create an explosive.

Penalties for Possessing Destructive Materials or Devices

If you are convicted of charges for possessing destructive materials or devices, the prosecution can use the 'wobbler' and charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. How it will be charged will depend on the circumstances of your case and your past criminal history. If charged as a misdemeanor, you can be sentenced up to one year in jail. If convicted under felony charges, you can be sentenced up to three years in prison.

In addition to these charges, you would have to forfeit any destructive devices found in your possession. If charged as a felony offense, you will be prohibited from possessing a firearm for the rest of your life. If you've been charged with possession of destructive materials or devices, you need legal counsel right away. We have the knowledge and experience to argue prosecutorial evidence and reduce charges or dismiss them and protect your future.

Proving Intent to Commit a Burglary

A prosecutor will have to prove you possessed a specific tool to commit a burglary. Owning and carrying a screwdriver, for example, would not usually be a crime. Depending on the circumstances of where you are found with this tool and how you were using it will give the prosecutor the evidence needed to charge you with illegal possession of the item. Having a criminal defense attorney working with you through these charges will help in establishing an alternative reason the article was in your possession.

It is often argued that state laws criminalizing burglary tools have gone overboard or are too vague. The United States Constitution prohibits criminal statues which are considered unclear and make it difficult for a person to determine what exactly falls under criminal conduct. There have not been many challenges to this statue which have proven successful, but it is one area for your criminal defense attorney to consider.

If you are convicted of possessing burglary tools, you can be charged with a felony. Most often this charge falls under a misdemeanor. Having a criminal defense attorney working with you if charged with possession of a burglary tool can help you get the charges reduced or dismissed.

Conviction of Penal Code 464

If you are convicted under Penal Code 464, it is not a small offense. The conviction under this charge will be considered a felony and could land you a sentence of up to seven years in a county jail with up to $10,000 in fines. It is a serious crime and one that will require you to obtain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. You will need the representation that defends your rights and can fight the prosecution’s case under reasonable doubt.

If you are convicted of a felony in California, you are facing serious consequences which can include jail or prison time along with a fine. The repercussions after serving your sentence are even more devastating. Long after you have served your time and paid your fine, you will still feel like your punishment is continuing.

Your rights, such as your civil rights and privileges can be taken away, and you will find it difficult, possibly impossible to gain substantial employment. Having a felony conviction on your records will also make it impossible or extremely difficult to earn a promotion. Employers are able to ask about the conviction on your files and if there is a legitimate, business-related reason for them to refuse hiring or promoting you, it is considered a legal act.

If you've been convicted of a felony and served your sentence, but feel you are receiving unfair or unconstitutional prejudice in your employment, contact a criminal defense attorney. We are able to look into your records to determine the reason behind your conviction, and whether or not it legally affects your employment opportunity, you are pursuing and being denied.

Another right you can lose after a felony conviction is the right to vote. The Fourteenth Amendment states your right to vote due to participation in a crime can be revoked. California suspends your right to vote while you are imprisoned or on parole when convicted of a felony.

An exemption to this revocation of voting rights would only be if the judge suspends execution of your sentence and has placed you on probation with the condition you serve one year less in a county jail. This probation will allow you to retain your right to vote while you are serving your time in jail.

You will not be allowed to serve on a jury in California if you have been convicted of a felony. The only way to serve after this type of conviction is to have your civil rights restored. To restore these rights, you have to apply for and be granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon, or receive a direct pardon from California's Governor. Contact your criminal defense attorney to help you through this process and ensure a successful outcome.

The seriousness of a felony conviction is long lasting and life-changing. If you are being charged with a crime that may result in a felony conviction, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney working with you to reduce or dismiss your charges. Don't let one event in your life change your quality of life. Contact an attorney with experience in the California legal and court system help you protect your rights and future.

Criminal Defense Attorney with Experience in California Law

Contact Leah Legal if you or someone you know has been charged with burglary of a safe or vault. Call our Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 818-484-1100 today and speak to an attorney who knows the court system and laws of California to receive the best protection of your future. Check further through our website at to discover how we can help with all your legal needs.