Review of California Penal Code 464 PC
There are several types of burglary offenses in California. Still, burglary of a safe or fault under Penal Code 464 PC is a specific type of burglary that involves breaking into a building and attempting to blow open a safe or vault using a torch or explosives.
PC 464 says: “Anyone who, with intent to commit a crime, enters any building, whether inhabited or not, and opens or attempts to open any vault, safe, or another secure place by use of acetylene torch or electric arc, burning bar, thermal lance, oxygen lance, or any other similar device capable of burning through steel, concrete, or by use of nitroglycerine, dynamite, gunpowder, or any other explosive, is guilty of a felony crime.”
Thus, this statute makes it a crime to enter a building with the intent to commit grand theft, and while inside, you open or try to open a safe or vault using explosives or a torch. A violation can occur using explosives, safecracking, or safe blowing by a torch.
PC 464 is a form of Penal Code 459 burglary, meaning you don't have to succeed in securing the safe or vault to be charged with this crime. In other words, the attempt alone is sufficient for a conviction.
Under California law, breaking into a building (burglary) and opening or attempting to open a safe or vault are two separate crimes. If you entered a structure and tried to open a safe or secure place, you could face charges under PC 464, but the prosecution could also charge you with PC 459 burglary.
Put simply, Penal Code 464 PC is a burglary crime but involves using explosives or acetylene torches to open a safe or vault. Further, you could be charged with either a first-degree (residential) or second-degree (business) burglary of a safe or vault.
This is a serious felony offense that can result in penalties of up to 7 years in prison if convicted. Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this law in greater detail below.
What is the Burglary of a Safe?
Burglary of a safe or vault, also known as burglary using explosives, is defined by California law as entering a building with the intent to commit a crime once inside, then utilizing a torch or explosives to open the safe or vault.
The building may be occupied or vacant, business or residence, day or night—it doesn't matter in this case. What classifies it as burglary of a safe or vault is using explosives to break open a secure place. To convict you of this particular crime, the prosecution must demonstrate the following:
- You entered a building;
- You did so with the specific intent to commit a crime inside (usually theft); and
- While inside, you used a torch or explosives to attempt to open a safe, vault, or other secure location.
Whether the property you entered is residential or commercial, burglary of a safe or vault is always charged as a felony offense in California. If convicted, you could face up to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What Are Some Examples?
Tom enters a jewelry store after hours using a key he duplicated while he was an employee there. He then uses a torch to try to open the vault and steal merchandise. Under PC 464, Tom is guilty of burglary of a safe or vault, as opposed to second-degree burglary, because he used a torch in the vault's opening.
Jane breaks into a retail store at night and uses safecracking aids to open the safe by listening to the tumblers. Although she may be charged with other crimes, Jane is not guilty of PC 464 because no explosives or flame was used to try to open the safe.
While staying with his wealthy relatives, Ed waits until the family has gone out, sneaks into the home office, and tries to use a blow torch to force open the family safe.
While he may be charged with other crimes, Ed is not guilty of PC 464 because he didn't specifically "enter" a building with the intent of committing a crime. In other words, he was already "in" the building lawfully.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several crimes are related to or often charged, along with a safe or vault burglary. These include, but are not limited to:
- Burglary (Penal Code 459 PC): the act of entering a building with the intent to commit a theft or any other felony crime once inside (charged as a misdemeanor or felony);
- First-Degree Residential Burglary (Penal Code 460 PC): entering an inhabited dwelling place to steal or commit a crime (charged as a felony);
- Possession of Burglary Tools (Penal Code 466 PC): possessing tools that could be used for burglary, such as lock picks, crowbars, etc., with the intent to use them for burglary;
- Grand Theft (Penal Code 487 PC): the act of stealing property that is valued at over $950 (charged as a misdemeanor or felony);
- Possessing Destructive Devices (Penal Code 18710 PC): possessing or transporting explosives or other destructive devices, such as bombs or grenades (misdemeanor or felony);
- Robbery (Penal Code 211): this offense is defined as forcefully taking someone's property in their direct presence. PC 211 is a felony with a sentence of up to five years in state prison;
- Trespassing (Penal Code 602 PC): accessing or getting into someone's property without permission. Your defense lawyer typically uses this statute to negotiate a lesser offense.
What Are the Common Defenses against Burglary of a Safe or Vault?
A good attorney may utilize several possible defenses if you have been charged with burglary of a safe or vault. These are discussed below.
Perhaps there was a lack of intent: you did not enter the building with the specific intent to commit a crime once inside. You are only guilty of burglary if you intend to commit a crime before entering a building.
Perhaps there was no use of explosives or a torch: you did not open the safe (or attempt to do so) using explosives. This defense is often used for negotiating downgraded charges.
Perhaps there was no safe/vault: either the place you allegedly broke into did not qualify as a safe or vault, or you did not attempt to break into it. This defense is often used for negotiating downgraded charges.
Perhaps you are the victim of a false accusation: you were misidentified or falsely accused of the crime by someone due to anger or jealousy.
If you need to discuss your charges with our criminal attorneys, contact our law firm by phone or use the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP has two office locations in Los Angeles County, California.