Defending Against Burglary Charges in Florida

Will I serve time in jail if I am convicted of burglary?

The crime of burglary is a serious one in the state of Florida. Burglary is defined as entering or remaining inside a structure or dwelling with the specific intent of committing a criminal offense within.  In Florida, burglary is classified as a felony offense which will carry the potential for prison time, large fines, probation, and a lifetime criminal record. To convict you of the crime of burglary, the prosecution must prove not just that you entered the property, but that you did so with the intent to commit a crime.  While burglary is a significant offense, there are numerous potentially viable defenses you could raise to the burglary charges you face.

Elements of the Crime of Burglary

The crime of burglary can be broken down into two main elements.  First, the defendant must enter a dwelling, structure, or conveyance owned by another person.  Secondly, the defendant must have the intent to commit an offense within the dwelling, conveyance, or structure.  Alternatively, the crime of burglary can be charged where the defendant enters a structure lawfully, but remains inside secretly or after permission has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime therein.

Courts have defined a structure to mean any building, temporary or permanent, that has a roof over it.  A conveyance could include a boat, aircraft, trailer, car, or other vessel for transportation. A dwelling is any building designed to be lived in.  Further, courts have held that a defendant need not fully enter a property to commit a burglary. If intent is proven, the extension of any part of the body into the building is sufficient for conviction.  Lastly, Florida jury instructions provide that when the defendant enters or attempts to enter the structure stealthily, a jury could infer criminal intent.

Penalties for Burglary

The penalties for the crime of burglary will depend on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense.  Burglary will be a first degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison, if the defendant commits an assault or battery of a person, is or becomes armed, or uses a motor vehicle to commit the crime and causes damages of over $1,000.

Burglary will be charged as a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and 15 years probation, along with a $10,000 fine, where the defendant enters a dwelling, whether a person is present or not, with the intent to commit a crime. Alternatively, if the defendant enters a structure or conveyance with a person present, he or she can be charged with a second degree felony.  Third degree burglary, which can be punished by five years in prison and five years probation, will be charged where the defendant enters a structure or conveyance with no one present.

There are several potential defenses that could be raised to the crime of burglary.  Depending on the circumstances, you could challenge the conviction through a showing of consent to be on the property, mistaken identity, or a lack of criminal intent.  Consult with a burglary defense lawyer as soon as possible after your arrest to start protecting your legal rights.