If a person enters an unlocked car, are they breaking and entering? According to California’s burglary laws they are not. However, that does not mean that it is perfectly legal to do so. If a person enters a car through a door that is not locked, but does not have the consent of the owner, they can be charged with tampering with a vehicle. Read on to learn more about this charge and what to do if you are facing it. Then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.
California Vehicle Code Prohibits Tampering with a Vehicle and Much More
According to California Vehicle Code Section 10852, it is unlawful for a person to willfully injure or tamper with a vehicle, the contents of it, or to break or remove any part of said vehicle unless they have the consent of the owner. Tampering is further defined as interfering with the ownership of the vehicle. As a result, it is illegal to enter a vehicle without consent of the owner – even in the event the vehicle was not locked.
Potential Punishment for Tampering with a Vehicle
Tampering with a vehicle is a misdemeanor and can result in up to six months in county jail, fines of up to $1,000, or both. If it is charged under a more serious crime, such as auto burglary (in which the vehicle was locked and a person entered the vehicle to commit a theft or some other felony) then it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The prosecutor will decide how it should be charged. If they file the charge as a felony, then the maximum punishment includes three years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000. If auto burglary is charged as a misdemeanor then then potential punishment is the same as it is for tampering with a vehicle: Up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000.
Defense Options for Tampering with a Vehicle or Auto Burglary
The right defense option for your case will be based on a number of factors, including the charge you are facing, your criminal history, and the facts of the case. We may argue that the situation was the result of an honest mistake. If the charge is auto burglary, we may work to show that the vehicle was unlocked.
We may work to show that there is not enough evidence to move forward with a charge. We may show that there was no intent to commit theft or another felony. The only way to know for sure what the best defense for your case would be is to contact an experienced attorney who can carefully consider the facts. Contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.