Were the Doors Locked?
Vehicle break-ins are nearly epidemic in some parts of Sacramento. It is so common to see shattered glass next to a parked car that often vehicle owners will leave their doors unlocked with the hope that they can avoid a window repair bill. What citizens may not be aware of is that currently, the law in California is that burglary only occurs when a thief enters a vehicle with locked doors. A shattered window does not provide evidence that the vehicle’s doors were locked, and therefore the harsher charge of burglary may not apply. This loophole may render law enforcement unable to charge thieves with anything other than vandalism or petty theft. Senator Scott Wiener is attempting to close the “broken window burglary loophole.”
It is difficult to prove that a vehicle was locked, even with testimony from the vehicle owner that he or she locked the doors. If it cannot be proven that the doors were locked, there is no burglary charge, therefore no felony. According to police, this creates problems with enforcement and prosecution. In turn, this particular criminal activity increases since no real penalties are ever doled out.
A New Bill Proposed
Scott Wiener, Democratic Senator from San Francisco, is attempting to make it easier to prosecute these thefts by closing the broken window loophole. He, in conjunction with Assemblyman Tyler Diep, has introduced a bill to widen the perimeters of automotive burglary, making the simple act of forcibly entering a vehicle with intent to steal a crime. The bill is known as Assembly Bill 1921 and is scheduled to go before the Committee on Public Safety. Wiener states that when a person shatters a car window, it is reasonable to infer that the vehicle was locked. He also believes it does not matter, and that the forcible break-in is sufficient to constitute a crime.
Senator Wiener has attempted to make similar changes in the past, but his proposals did not make it through the legislature, despite strong support from police and prosecutors.
Not everyone is on board with the proposed new bill. California Public Defender’s Association believes it to be unnecessary, and assert that most cases accept that a shattered window indicates that the doors were locked. Additionally, with the statewide trend toward reserving incarceration for violent offenses, the bill is seen by some as an overreach. Additionally, the increase in costs if the bill were to pass is estimated at an additional half a million per year.
Ultimately, Senator Wiener says the intention behind closing the loophole is not to send vehicle thieves to prison but to create some accountability where there currently is little to none.
Sacramento Auto Accident Attorney
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento auto accident attorney. If you or someone you love was injured by a reckless or negligent driver, you have the right to monetary compensation. Call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free & friendly advice.
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Photo Attribution: Pixabay user VladArtist
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