Burglary [Fla. Stat. § 810.02] is illegal forcible entry into a secured dwelling (home or apartment), structure (business) or “conveyance,” with the intent to commit a crime, usually – but not always — theft. Technically, it is a combination of trespassing (including breaking and entering) and felony larceny (theft). But other serious crimes can be associated with a burglary. A dwelling is defined as a place used for inhabitation. A structure is the legal definition of a building that is not inhabited. Conveyances include cars, trailers, ships, boats and other properties. A burglary lawyer in St. Petersburg from Goldman Wetzel can help the accused sort through the charges and may create a solid defense.
The difference between robbery (theft) and burglary is that generally, no physical force is used against a person during a burglary. Usually, burglar and victim don’t come into contact with each other, and a burglary charge doesn’t necessarily involve actually taking any property. This slightly lesser crime of simple breaking and entering (technically, any of several forms of trespassing) can be charged if no other crimes accompany the offense [Fla. Stat. § 810.08, .09, .095, .097, .0975]. But breaking and entering with intent to commit murder, rape, arson or kidnapping combines several felonies to make the crime much more serious.
Depending on the circumstances of the burglary, it can be charged as either a first, second or third-degree felony. Punishment upon conviction depends on the degree of the crime and other mitigating factors which include:
- If the defendant used a motor vehicle to damage the dwelling or structure
- The defendant caused over $1,000 in damage to the premises during the burglary.
- The defendant has been previously convicted for other felonies
- The perpetrator qualifies as a career criminal as defined by state or federal law
- Additional underlying felonies that may have accompanied the crime such as any form of assault, or if a defendant had a weapon – especially a firearm – during the commission of the burglary
Florida Burglary Penalties
First-degree burglary: This is the most serious charge and bears the highest penalties – up to life in prison if the defendant also committed assault or battery or was armed. [Fla. Stat §§ 810.02 (2), 775.082 – 84]
Second-degree burglary: This is a straight-up burglary charge. It is common if someone breaks into a house or dwelling and no confrontation took place. Had a confrontation took place, it may bump up to first-degree burglary because it could be considered an assault and battery. Penalties can involve up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. [Fla. Stat §§ 810.02 (3), 775.082 – 84]
Third-degree burglary: This is the simplest charge in the sense that no one was at the scene of the burglary other than the suspect(s) and no serious property damage took place ($1,000+). This is the most common burglary charge when someone breaks into a car. A prison sentence of up to five years and fine of up to $5,000 await those convicted of this felony. [Fla. Stat. §§ 810.02 (4), 75.082 – 84]
Defenses to Burglary Charges
There are some defenses for burglary that are at our disposal, depending on the specific facts of your case. The “true owner” defense or “erroneous takings rule” means that you can prove that you have a right to what has been taken.
Others include your ability to prove that:
- the owner consented to your entry or presence on the property.
- the premises was open to the public at the time though this claim may not shield you from a theft conviction.
- you did not intend to commit any of the burglary-related crimes with which you are charged.
If you are charged with a burglary offense, our firm offers a complimentary review of your case and can help mount your most effective defense. Contact Goldman Wetzel today to learn more.