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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 26779
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I was arrested for burglary in California. I purchased a hard

Customer Question

I purchased a hard drive & that was defective. I then took it back to the store for an even exchange & was told to wait. Police arrived & arrested me on the spot & took me to a back room & questioned me.
With me in handcuffs and the officer rummaging thru my things, I asked if I was under arrest & if I could get a lawyer. The officer kept asking questions & I told him I refused to speak & asked what my charges were. He said he will find something & took my car keys to search for my car in the parking lot. After some time he finally charged me with burglary, towed my car & booked me at the police station for burglary.
My biggest question is , is there probable cause to arrest me for this? The store owner & police claim that I gutted the hard drive for parts & tried to return it, they searched me & towed my car & didnt find the parts they was looking for.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 7 years ago.

The fact that you have brought out here do not make out a burgary. For a California burglary, you have to enter premises with the intent to commit a crime inside. Under the facts you presented, you entered to make an exchange of a defective product that you purchased from them.

Now, if that product had been stolen on a previous occasion and you entered the store with the purposes of getting back money for something you'd wrongfully taken in the first place, that would give the police probable cause.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I puchased the hard drive & had a reciept. However they claim I gutted the parts out the drive & went in with the intent to get cash back. The Police claimed they I was the only one who did it. They dont believe it could of been a factory defect or the store accepted a bad returns before. Basically Im asking if a store calls the cops on you for a return they dont like can the police just go an arrest you?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 7 years ago.

Yes, the police can arrest you, because the word of the store that you were trying to rip them off is all they need to give them probable cause.

All probable cause is, is just a reasonable belief that a crime may have been committed and that a particular person may have had something to do with it. Probable cause is a very low standard of proof, and basically almost anybody can get someone arrested if they really want to do it.

In order to get a conviction, on the other hand, the DA would have to prove that you intended to commit this theft beyond a reasonable doubt. That's a much higher standard of proof. And if the DA cant meet that, a jury would have to acquit you of these charges. But whether it's an easy case for them to win or a hard one is irrelevant -- the DA is entitled to prosecute you if they think they can make out their case.

That this could have been a factory defect or that someone else might have returned this as defective before you did would be facts that could help you with a defense if you want to fight these charges. But disputes as to facts are what criminal cases are all about. So it won't get the case dismissed. Questions of fact get resolved by a jury if you want to take the case that far.