BURGLARY CHARGES AND YOUR RIGHT TO A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER IN TAMPA
A burglary occurs in Florida when someone enters “a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance” and intends to commit a crime there. Florida recognizes three “degrees” of burglary, which are first-, second-, and third-degree burglary. But every Florida burglary is a felony, and a conviction can put someone in prison for at least five years.
Burglary makes us think of a thief wearing a ninja mask, climbing through a window, and stuffing cash or jewelry into a bag – what we see on television or in the movies. In real life, most burglaries are far less dramatic. Here’s what you may not know about burglary charges:
- The intended felony or misdemeanor does not have to be theft. It could be any crime ranging from vandalism to murder.
- A burglary charge does not require a forced entry. In Florida, burglary can be entering a home or business through an open door – without permission – to commit a crime.
- The intended crime does not have to be committed or completed. The entry combined with the intent to commit a crime is all that is needed to constitute burglary.
- To convict someone of burglary, a prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the suspect intended to commit a crime upon entering a building or residence.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL DEFENSES AGAINST A BURGLARY CHARGE?
Unless a burglary defendant confesses, intent is usually determined by the circumstances. If a defendant entered an apartment in the middle of the night with a flashlight and knife and was found hiding in a closet, that evidence alone may be sufficient to convict the suspect of burglary.
But if you entered a home or a business with the intention of taking back something that you believed was in fact yours, or if you entered a home or a business while believing that you had the owner’s permission to take an item, then you are not guilty of burglary.
If you are charged with the burglary of a structure, but you never entered that structure and never committed a crime there, a Tampa Bay burglary attorney may be able to persuade the prosecutor or the jury that you are a victim of mistaken identity and that someone else is in fact the burglar.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A BURGLARY CONVICTION?
As mentioned previously, Florida may prosecute burglary as a felony in the first, second, or third degree. The charge is a first-degree felony if the defendant used a motor vehicle to damage the dwelling or structure or caused over $1,000 in damage to the dwelling or structure.
Armed and violent burglaries are also prosecuted as first-degree felonies. Upon conviction, a first-degree felony in Florida is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Home invasion burglary is a second-degree felony punishable upon conviction by up to fifteen years and a fine of up to $10,000. Burglary of an occupied vehicle or building, of an emergency vehicle, or burglary to commit theft of a controlled substance is also a second-degree felony.
The burglary of an unoccupied building or vehicle is a third-degree felony. Possessing burglary tools and cutting phone or power lines in the commission of a burglary are also third-degree felonies punishable upon conviction by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
HOW ARE “BURGLARY TOOLS” DEFINED IN THIS STATE?
A burglary tool in Florida is any tool, device, or equipment that a burglar intends to use to commit a burglary. In other words, it depends on intent. You may legally own an acetylene torch for welding, but if you use it to cut holes in steel doors to commit thefts, it’s a burglary tool.
A conviction for a crime like burglary can change your life, and the legal penalties are not the only consequences. A felony conviction can make it harder to find employment and housing. If you hold a professional license, your licensing board may take disciplinary action.
DO NOT ACT AS YOUR OWN ATTORNEY
If you are an immigrant in the state of Florida and you are convicted of a felony, you’ll become subject to deportation. If you simply cannot have a felony conviction, and you are charged with burglary, don’t even think about acting as your own attorney. Too much will be at stake.
Tampa burglary attorney Patrick B. Courtney has over 24 years of legal experience, and he’s effectively represented scores of burglary defendants. He’s a former prosecutor who knows how burglary cases are handled by the state.
Pat Courtney knows how to protect a client’s rights and how to win justice for defendants who are accused of burglary. He represents clients in Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. Learn more – call (813) 967-2000 or use the contact form on this website.