Many people group burglary with robbery or crimes of theft, but there are important distinctions under the law. A person may be charged with burglary in a number of situations where no property was taken from the premises—and while the crime is commonly called “breaking and entering,” a defendant does not actually have to physically damage the property to face burglary charges.
In Florida, all crimes of burglary are charged as felony offenses. If convicted, you could face a long prison sentence, years on probation, and the creation of a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. If you are not a United States citizen, a burglary conviction can even be grounds for removal proceedings. With so much at stake, it's vital that you speak with Attorney George Reres as soon as possible. Call us today at (954) 523-3811 or complete our contact form to tell us more in your confidential consultation.
The Elements of Burglary in Florida
Burglary is the unlawful entry into a dwelling, conveyance (such as a car or boat), or other structure with the intent to commit a crime. It may involve breaking into cars or homes, but also the unlawful entry or attempted forced entry into public buildings, stores, offices, factories, warehouses, barns, apartments, or railroad cars.
In order to get a burglary conviction, the prosecutor must prove that:
- You entered a dwelling, a structure, or conveyance owned by or in the possession of the victim
- At the time of entry, you had the intent to commit a crime other than trespass
- You did not have license or invitation to enter the victim’s dwelling, location, or property
- You did at one time have license or invitation to enter the victim’s dwelling, location, or property, but you 1) secretly remained on the premises to commit a crime or 2) remained after the license or invitation had been withdrawn with the intention of committing a crime
Potential Penalties for Burglary in Florida
Even if no one was harmed during the incident, burglary charges can still result in anywhere from 5 to 30 years in state prison upon conviction. If weapons or bodily harm is involved, defendants could face life imprisonment.
Burglaries are charged in different ways according to the circumstances of the event:
- First-Degree Felony. You may be charged with first-degree burglary if you assaulted another person on the premises or were armed with a weapon, such as a firearm or motor vehicle. First-degree felonies carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $10,000 fine, but there are also mandatory minimums imposed for firearms offenses. If you had possession of a firearm during the burglary, you will be subject to a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years. If a firearm is discharged at some point during the burglary, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years. If a firearm is discharged and causes severe bodily harm or death during the burglary, you face a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years.
- Second-Degree Felony. Second-degree felonies apply in cases where the defendant entered a dwelling (occupied or unoccupied) or entered an occupied conveyance. These crimes carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Third-Degree Felony. These charges are made against defendants who entered an unoccupied conveyance or had tools in their possession with intent to commit a burglary. A third-degree felony for burglary may result in a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Are There Any Valid Defenses to Burglary Charges?
There could be many defenses available to you depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, you will need to be positively identified as the person who entered the burglarized property. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you were the one who committed the crime, the charges may be dropped.
Also, you may not have committed burglary if you had permission to be on (or in) the property. For example, you may have assumed you could enter a dwelling because you had previously been allowed in without asking, had been given a key, or someone gave you verbal permission in the past. You may also have entered the property without any intent to commit a crime.
Contact an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been charged with burglary, we can begin building a solid defense tailored specifically to your case in your first phone call. Call us at (954) 523-3811 or fill out our contact form to get answers at no cost to you.