Burglary is a serious offense in the Sunshine State. Since burglary crimes are always charged as felonies, even first-time offenders can face significant consequences if convicted.

Man Breaking into a BuildingAre you or someone you love under investigation for, or charged with, burglary or a related crime like criminal trespassing? Your freedom and future may hang in the balance. Understanding how these charges (and a subsequent conviction) could affect your life and family, as well as how an experienced burglary defense attorney can assist you, is absolutely vital.

Here's what you need to know about Florida burglary cases, including why you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

How Burglaries and Robberies Differ

Though people often use “burglary” and “robbery” interchangeably in conversation, the terms have separate and distinct meanings under the law. Whereas robbery involves taking property from someone by force, or by threatening the use of force, burglary is characterized by these elements: unlawful entry and the intention to commit a crime.

Burglary Defined

Florida defines burglary as entering a dwelling, building, or vehicle with the intent to commit a crime. Criminal intent is key here—as a result, you could potentially be charged with burglary even if you didn't break in and never actually took anything. For example, burglary charges may result from:

  • Entering a residence, building, or vehicle by invitation with the intent to commit a crime inside
  • Remaining in the structure or vehicle secretly—or after being asked to leave—with the intent to commit a crime
  • Entering with the intent to commit a violent felony, such as robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, or sexual assault or battery

Types of Burglary Charges

In Florida, you can be charged with first-, second-, or third-degree burglary. The degree of the charge, as well as the severity of the possible penalties vary depending on the circumstances of the incident in question. However, because all burglary crimes are felonies, even a conviction for third-degree burglary—the least serious form of the offense—can carry potentially life-altering legal consequences. What follows is a brief overview of burglary charges and their penalties.

First-Degree Burglary

As a first-degree felony and punishable by up to life in prison, first-degree burglary is the most serious form of the crime. These burglaries can leave physical injuries and substantial property damages in their wake. You could face charges of burglary in the first degree if you:

  • Assault or batter someone during the commission of the crime
  • Have explosives or other dangerous weapons in your possession while committing the crime
  • Use a car, truck, or other motor vehicle to commit the crime, causing damage to the dwelling, structure, or vehicle—or the property inside
  • Cause more than $1,000 damage to the affected dwelling, structure, or vehicle, or its property.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary is a second-degree felony, punishable by an up to $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. Lack of assault or battery and fewer damages is what distinguishes second-degree burglaries from their first-degree counterparts. You could face second-degree burglary charges if you:

  • Burglarize a dwelling (a place intended for lodging)
  • Commit a burglary while another person is inside the structure
  • Commit a burglary while another person is inside the vehicle
  • Burglarize an authorized emergency vehicle
  • Burglarize a structure with the intention of stealing a controlled substance

Third-Degree Burglary

A third-degree felony, burglary in the third degree, is punishable by an up to $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. The lack of assault or battery, significant damages, dangerous weapons, and people in the affected structure or vehicle at the time of the crime is what distinguishes third-degree burglary from first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary. You could face charges of burglary in the third degree if you:

  • Burglarize an unoccupied structure
  • Burglarize an unoccupied vehicle

Criminal Trespassing

Criminal trespassing isn't a type of burglary. However, people charged with burglary may also find themselves facing this related charge. Under Florida law, a person commits criminal trespass when they enter—or remain—in a dwelling or vehicle without the owner's permission. Unlike burglary crimes, which involve the intent to commit a crime, criminal trespassing just requires a general intent to trespass—no criminal intent is needed. The severity and type of criminal trespassing charges can vary, and heavily depend on the details surrounding the incident in question.

Repeat Offenders May Face Enhanced Penalties

Any burglary charge is serious, but this is particularly true for repeat offenders. In Florida, offenders with two or more felony convictions may be subject to sentencing enhancements for subsequent convictions. Factors that can affect the enhancement received include the seriousness of your current charge, as well as the gravity and number of prior offenses.

Common Burglary Defenses

  • No criminal intent. Burglary hinges on the defendant's intention to commit a crime once inside.
  • Permission or invitation. A person invited in and given permission to stay hasn't committed the unlawful entry element of a burglary crime. This type of defense could also be applied if you mistakenly believed you had the required invitation or permission.
  • Public space. A burglary crime requires unlawful entry, which doesn't apply to spaces that are open to the public.
  • Alibi. For people mistakenly identified as having participated in a burglary crime, a reliable alibi can serve as a strong defense.

You Deserve a Defense

No matter what you're accused of—or what you may have done—you deserve a vigorous defense. At George Reres Law, P.A., we proudly defend clients against burglary and other criminal charges, investigating and gathering the evidence needed to present a strong case for reasonable doubt.

Schedule a Consultation

Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a confidential consultation. Don't underestimate the value of early representation. The sooner you hire us, the sooner we can approach the prosecutor with mitigating information that could potentially result in reduced or dismissed charges.