A True Black Friday for this Felon

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This Black Friday when you are pushing, shoving, jumping, and committing other Olympic feats to get to the hot-ticket items, remember this story and purchase extra security for your new “toys.” This Friday is a dark, dark Friday for a 22-year-old San Pedro man who is in custody for residential burglary. Detectives tracked him down using the “Lojack for Laptops” software on the laptops he stole from a Rancho Palos Verdes home.

It seems that this San Pedro man decided he just couldn’t wait for Black Friday deals and took matters into his own hands. He was identified as an unlicensed contractor who had done work at the victim’s home two months earlier. The security software was able to gather personal information, including his name and photograph once he logged into the computer. Now, that is pretty crafty of modern technology.

The article states that the police were able to convince him to bring the laptop to the Lomita Sherriff’s station, where he was then promptly arrested. Now, let me just make it clear what this means. The Sherriff’s officers are not brilliant negotiators; when an article says any officer “convinced” a defendant to come down to the station it means one of two things. The officer lied to the defendant somehow, prompting the defendant to head over to the station; or the officer threatened the defendant with arrest if he didn’t cooperate. Sometimes, there is a combination of both.

Earlier in our Friday series, I spoke about commercial burglary. The San Pedro man allegedly stole from a residence making the crime here residential burglary. Residential burglary is the more serious of the two types. A defendant commits residential burglary if he burgles any inhabited dwelling – a place where someone lives or sleeps. A dwelling is “inhabited” if it is used for dwelling purposes, whether or not it is currently occupied. A prosecutor has to prove that the defendant entered the dwelling and that, at the time he entered; he had the intent to steal.

Again, there is the sticky situation of “intent.” Any good defense attorney will latch on to this element, especially in this laptop case. Absent any other evidence, it’s just as likely that the San Pedro man didn’t form the intent to steal until after he was already inside the home. This is a prime case for theft, not residential burglary because when a defendant formed the intent to steal is the key difference between burglary and theft.

In this case, the prosecution is really going to have to nail down a timeframe for the defendant’s action. The prosecution will need to show something more than just his possession of the laptop. This is because he had a legitimate intent as he entered the home – work – and without more it is too much of a stretch to place intent to steal on him.

If he is convicted of first degree residential burglary, he faces two, four, or six years in the California State Prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. California Penal Code 462 instructs the judge not to issue a probationary sentence if he was convicted of burglarizing an inhabited structure unless it is an “unusual case where the interests of justice would be best served by doing so”. Here, if the prosecution doesn’t reduce the charge to theft, then a judge should grant probation. This is because this is not a typical residential burglary – not at night, not with weapons, and not a “break in.” Either way, the San Pedro man faces a strike on his record.

This is an unfortunately black Friday for the San Pedro man. He really should have waited for the shopping deals on Black Friday. Instead, is in custody without bail because of his immigration status. However, this is an important Thanksgiving lesson – be thankful for modern technology and make sure to equip your important electronic toys with security software.

You can read the story of the Rancho Palos Verdes laptops stolen by the San Pedro man here.

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