Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Under California Laws, a burglary is a form of theft that is separate from other general types of theft. It is broken down into different kinds of burglary, which include breaking into a safe or vault. If you are charged with such crimes, there are possibilities of getting severe punishments that might have a lasting effect on your life. Therefore, seeking professional attorney intervention is vital to ensure that your rights are considered, and you get a fair trial. We at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney apply unique techniques in ensuring that you get the right legal representations to everyone living in Los Angeles.

Legal Definition of Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Under Penal Code 464, it is a criminal offense to break into a safe or vault. The crime can be committed by the use of explosives or any other device that may open or blow a safe. Such a crime is committed when one enters a premise provided under PC 459 and to undertake a grand theft crime or a petty crime. Therefore, for a prosecutor to successfully charge you with this crime should prove the following:

There Was No Authorization of Entry by the Property’s Owner

Under PC 464, entering a building or a secure place without authorization is considered burglary. The authorization includes approval or permission issued by the building’s owner. Therefore, if you entered into the building without consent and proceeded into breaking the safe or vault, then you end up being guilty of Penal Code 464.

One is considered to have entered a building if part of the body or some object under his or her control penetrates inside a building or outer boundary. The outer perimeter of a house includes the window screen, attached balconies on any floor of a story-building that has the design to be entered from inside.

The  Incident Occurred in a Secure Place

Safes and vaults are stored in a secure place with restricted access. Therefore, a crime under the Penal Code 464 qualifies when the offender broke into the restricted location. This can be proved using camera footage and safe documentation.


The prosecutor should prove that you had an interest in breaking into the vault or safe before you decided to enter into the building. A possible indicator of your intention is camera footage showing your nervousness before you entered the building. Another sign would be the means that you used to access the place. This includes using force to access the restricted area or cracking into the vault or safe.

Used an Explosive or Any Other Device that can Open a Safe

Under PC 464, a torch refers to an acetylene torch, burning bar, thermal lance, oxygen lance, or an electric arch. Generally, it represents anything that can burn through any solid substance such as steel or concrete. On the other hand, an explosive is referred to as nitroglycerine, gunpowder, dynamite, or anything explosive.

Consideration Whether Burglary of Safe or Vault is a First or Second- Degree Burglary

Laws related to a burglary in California are listed under Penal Code 458 to 464. Burglary offenses can be handled as first or second-degree burglary based on the building that the offender broke into. Cases can qualify to be first-degree involves entry into residences, while second-degree cases involve entry into establishments and stores.

Residences that fall under first- degree burglary include hotel rooms, occupied motels, inhabited trailer couch, floating home, boat, or a house. The crime scene must be inhabited for the crime to be considered a burglary. However, for a burglary of a safe or vault, the scene does not necessarily have to be occupied.

Although burglary of safe and vault crimes can be considered as a first or second-degree burglary, the prosecutor handles this crime separately, and different penalties apply as well.

Penalties for Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Under California laws, Penal Code 464 burglary with explosive or safe blowing is considered as a felony. Therefore, the penalties that apply include:

  • Formal probation
  • three, five, or seven years of imprisonment in county prison under the California realignment program
  • A maximum fine of $10,000
  • Risk of deportation if you are a non-citizen. The Department of Homeland Security can facilitate the extradition to the point of making it admissibly challenges. In that case, one ends up being forbidden from the entry back to the country. It also revokes any attempt to apply for citizenship back to the United States

Felony Probation in California

Forma probation is an alternative to imprisonment in California state prison. It allows offenders who have been convicted of felony crimes to serve their sentences out of jail as long as they take heed of the probation conditions imposed on them. Once the offender revokes the terms, the probation will be revoked by the judge, and one will end up serving his or her sentence in prison.

For the judge to determine whether one is eligible for probation, there are a couple of factors that one should consider. These factors include:

  • The armament of the offender during the crime
  • How severe the circumstances of the crime was as compared with others similar to it
  • How vulnerable the victims were during the crime
  • The monetary loss value after the crime
  • The possibility of carrying out the crime in a sophisticated manner
  • The level of willingness that the defendant intend to put on the probation terms
  • Prior records of the defendant

The defendant can argue about the need to place him or her on probation during the sentencing hearing through the help of the criminal defense attorney. However, it solely depends on the judge’s decision whether to consider the probation or not since the prosecutor will argue the opposite, to put the defendant on imprisonment.

Common Probation Conditions

There are specific requirements that the judge imposes on an offender under probation, which one should follow through. Some of the common conditions include:

  • Meeting with the probation officer as required, which is generally once a month
  • Restitution of all damages caused
  • Participation in a group or individual therapy
  • Involvement in community labor or service
  • Agreement to submit to home searches by peace officers with or without a warrant commonly referred to as search condition
  • Agreeing not to violate any law

There could be other conditions imposed on you as long as they are reasonable and logical to the offense at hand. Judges have a lot of discretion to decide on the probation conditions as long as they are considered proper and fitting to ensure that justice is upheld.

The California Realignment Program

The enactment of California Assembly Bill 109 saw convicts of the 500 felony crimes under California laws that are considered non-serious and non-sexual related transferred to county jails or put under mandatory supervision. These convicts are usually imprisoned in the California state prison. Once you are released from the realignment program, you will be placed in a new scheme known as the Postrelease Community Supervision (PRCS), putting you under the supervision of the county probation officers. This is different from the state parole agents who oversee felony probation in California.

Legal Defense of Burglary of a Safe or Vault

Winning your charges means that you must hire a professional criminal defense attorney. For the attorney to successfully help in your case, he or she must have relevant legal defenses at hand. In a burglary of a safe or vault accusation, common legal defenses can apply since such crimes are more or less the same to those that they fall in effect. Here are a couple of legal defenses that your attorney can consider.

1. Lack of Intent

Lack of intent is a critical aspect when it comes to prosecuting someone under Penal Code 464. This applies if you did not commit any theft to the safe or vault while in the building. The timing is critical in this consideration since you have to prove you did not have the intention to commit any theft.

2. Mistaken of Facts

Another close defense to lack of intent is mistake of fact. This is also considered as a claim of right. In this case, you need to prove that you entered into another person’s home to take something back, which you considered to be yours. Another consideration that proves this aspect is the belief that you had the permission to take the item.

 Again, you must prove that you did not break into the safe or vault within the house that you broke into during your entry to make this defense valid.

3. Factual Innocence

Proving that you did not do anything can be the ideal way to fight a PC 464 burglary of a safe and vault charge. It is hard for an innocent person to be arrested for a particular mistake, but this can happen if: 

  • There is a mistaken identity
  • There is misleading evidence
  • You are falsely accused of the crime

4. Police Misconduct

It is uncommon to find California Police misusing their authority. However, if situations such as planting evidence, lying, or unnecessary use of pepper spray or tasers can weigh leverage on your case, and your attorney can manage to prove this fact, then you can go ahead and seek monetary damage by pressing civil claims.

5. Entrapment

This legal defense applies when one commits the alleged offense out of coercion, threats, and harassment. In most cases, entrapment applies when one has been persuaded by undercover police to commit a specific crime. To use this legal defense, you need to get a preponderance of the evidence. This means that you should prove that the reason behind committing the crime was to overreach the police conduct.

 6. Lack of Probable Cause

Based on California search and seizure rules, police are required to have a probable and reasonable cause before they detain or arrest anyone. Therefore, if they did not have any sensible or cautious reasons to arrest you for your breaking of the safe or vault, then the legal defense becomes viable.

The criminal attorney defense usually files a motion that shows no probable cause for your arrest and asks the court to exclude the evidence obtained via the improper search or seizure. If the court grants the motion, then the case gets dismissed.

7. False Accusation

There are a lot of aspects that can make one make false accusations against you. This goes from jealousy, anger, revenge, or the attempt to cover their involvement in a crime. It requires a thorough investigation by the attorney to prove this fact since it can be quite hard to identify the false accuser.

8. Duress

California Laws excuse anyone who committed a crime with a reasonable belief that he or she was in immediate danger. This legal defense only works when you prove to the court that you committed the crime due to a threat from another person to commit a menacing action on you and compelled you to commit a particular crime.

9. Coerced Confession

Again, it is uncommon in California to find a police officer compelling an offender to do something out of the law. However, if the police officer conducts specific improper tactics, this legal defense becomes viable. These include conduct such as: 

  • Deprivation of food, sleep or water
  • Continuing to question you even after asking for a lawyer
  • Making false promises of leniency in exchange for a confession

If your attorney can prove that you were coerced into a confession, then they judge might exclude your confession from the evidence or have the case dropped altogether.

10. Alibi

Alibi means to be in another place. If you were accused of burglary of a safe or vault because your description matches the actual perpetrator, then you become an alibi of the crime. In such a case, you need to disapprove of evidence laid against you through witnesses, credit card receipts, surveillance tapes, or any other evidence that might help you.

Related Crimes of California Penal Code 464

There are specific types of crimes that are related to California Penal Code 464 that might have similar or close penalties. Such crimes include:

California Penal Code 459 – Burglary

This is the closest crime to burglary of a safe or vault. Under California Penal Code 459, it is a criminal offense to enter into a building, home, or vehicle to commit a crime. This kind of crime can be charged as a first-degree or second-degree crime based on the residency of entry, as explained above. Therefore, the penalties might differ depending on whether it is a first-degree or second-degree crime.

Penalties for a first- degree burglary is punishable by a maximum of six years of incarnation, court fines and a possible strike based on California’s Three Strike Laws.

A second-degree offense is considered as a wobbler. This means that it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the severity of your offense and criminal history. A felony charge can carry a maximum imprisonment of three years. Particular enhancements might be included in such a crime, such as receiving an additional prison sentence for every prior felony conviction.

California Penal Code 466 - Possession of Burglary Tools

Under Penal Code 466, it is an offense to possess a tool that can be associated with burglary. The possessor must have the intention to commit a crime as well. Such devices include picklock, key bit, crowbar, slim jim, bump key, slide hammer, and other tools.

This kind of crime is considered a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:

  • Six months of incarnation
  • Costly court fines
  • Probation, which includes restitution of damaged property and community services.
  • The judge might impose other conditions such as incriminating your records, which are visible to anyone conducting a criminal background check on you.

California Penal Code 487 – Grand Theft

Grand theft falls under Penal Code 487 of the California laws. Charges on this crime apply when the theft involves a loss that amounts to $950, there was a gun or item stolen in the scene, and the stolen item was physically and directly taken from the victim. In most cases, grand theft involves shoplifting things worth more than $950.

Grand theft is considered a wobbler. If one gets convicted with a misdemeanor, the sentence can result in a maximum of one year and the addition of court fines. If one is sentenced as a felony, he or she risks up to three years in prison. If one stole using a firearm, one risks three years in jail and a possibility of a strike according to California’s Three Strikes Laws. There is also the possibility of enhancement according to the value of the item that you stole.

California Penal Code 484 – Petty Theft

This is the most common crime under theft crimes. Most of these crimes involve shoplifting, which falls under Penal Code 484 (a). For a crime to be considered as petty theft, it should meet the following criteria:

  • The value of the stolen property must be worth $950 or less
  • The property was taken directly from another person
  • The property was not a vehicle or a gun

Petty theft is considered a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of a maximum of six months of incarceration. The crime can also be reduced to an infraction, where the prosecutor allows the offender to serve a diversion program to avoid any criminal convictions. The offender also risks having a permanent background criminal record that can be visible by anyone doing a criminal background check on him or her.

California Penal Code 18710 – Possessing Destructive Devices

Under Penal Code 18710 of the California laws, it is a criminal offense to possess unauthorized destructive devices unless they are fixed ammunition.

This kind of crime is considered a wobbler. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony according to the circumstances surrounding the case and the criminal history of the offender. If one gets convicted as a misdemeanor, one can be sentenced with imprisonment for up to a year; if one gets convicted with a felony, one risks a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Also, one must forfeit the destructive devices if convicted as a misdemeanor and is prohibited from possessing a firearm forever if convicted with a felony.

California Penal Code 18720 – Possessing Destructive Device Materials

Under Penal Code 18720, it is a felony offense to possess materials that can make bombs or destructive devices.

If one is found guilty of this kind of offense, he or she risks imprisonment in the California State prison for a maximum of four years.

Statute of Limitation for Burglary of a Safe or Vault

A statute of limitations is the time that a prosecutor has to bring a case to court. The limitation is different according to the crime that one has committed. The main reason behind a statute of limitations is to ensure justice to the defendant by limiting the time that one can be brought to trial. Please note that a case cannot be brought to court until it is discovered according to California’s Discovery rule.

Under Penal Code 799, a prosecutor has up to three years to prosecute an offender with felony charges. This considers crimes that are punishable with a maximum of eight years. Since burglary of a safe or vault is regarded as a felony in California, then the statute of limitations for such a crime is three years.

There are possibilities of stalling of this kind of offense if:

  • The perpetrator is not apprehended
  • The plaintiff has not attained eighteen years

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Getting involved in a burglary crime of a safe or vault case can be complicated. It requires the intervention of a reliable criminal defense attorney to ensure that you get a fair trial and win your case as well. Such expectations require an experienced and resourceful law firm. We at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney are ready to offer the kind of services that you need with your charges to anyone charged in Los Angeles. Contact us at 310-564-2605 to consult one of our attorneys. 


Free Case Evaluation

Call 310-564-2605 24/7 if you want to retain excellent attorneys.

Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Review

Facebook Reviews for Criminal Defense

Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Reviews

Criminal Defense Reviews

5.0 out of 5.0
Based on 73 reviews
City: The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney