Robbery does not just include breaking into someone’s house and stealing all of their valuable belongings; it can expand to many other contexts, with one of them being auto burglary. California has criminalized this act under Penal Code 459 PC and has set specific punishments for anyone that violates this law.
Auto burglary is a specific crime. In order for the defendant to be convicted, the prosecution must prove two key elements: the defendant must have entered a locked vehicle (the doors or the trunk) and when the defendant did enter the vehicle, he or she had the intent to commit petty theft or a felony.
Auto burglary is a wobbler offense
An important note in the law, is that the vehicle must have been locked. So, the defendant must have gone out of his or her way to break into the vehicle, and not just enter the vehicle through an open door or trunk. The assumption can be made that the owner of the vehicle would not have sanctioned the defendant entering the vehicle and taking any property.
The second element that must be considered is the intention to commit a crime, specifically either a felony or a theft. Therefore, if you break into, and enter, a vehicle and commit a felony, that can also be charged as auto burglary.
Auto burglary is a wobbler offense; a defendant can be convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony, and this will be determined by his or her past criminal convictions and the context of the burglary. If convicted of a felony, the defendant faces up to three years in a California jail (and any other punishments that would apply as a result of them committing other felonies by breaking into the car, like kidnapping). At a lower level, a misdemeanor conviction would result only in a one-year sentence in jail.
As explained, the prosecution must prove two elements; therefore, if falsely accused of auto burglary, the defendant should argue that one of those elements has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.