Burglary involves the illegal act of breaking into or entering onto someone else’s property with the intention of stealing or committing a felony. The perpetrator may enter someone’s house, a commercial building, a vehicle, a boat or a cargo container or any other type of property without permission. Although the laws in each state vary, the prosecutor typically does not have to prove that you actually stole or committed a property crime – simply that you intended to. A conviction of burglary typically results in fines and/or incarceration.
There are two primary types of burglaries: those committed in someone’s home are (first-degree) and those involving commercial property (second-degree). First-degree or residential burglaries are charged as felonies, while commercial burglaries may be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstance.
If you are charged with burglary, talk to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney near you to discuss your options and learn how to protect your rights.
First-Degree and Second-Degree Burglary
Nine times out of 10, first-degree burglaries are home invasions. Therefore, the law provides strict penalties for these crimes. These felonies can land the perpetrator six years in prison for a first offense. A second first-degree burglary offense will double the sentence and a third offense can put you in prison for life.
Second-degree or commercial burglary occurs when the perpetrator enters a business establishment and steals property or defaces property. The prosecutor will determine whether the crime should be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
The defense strategy that is most appropriate for your case will depend on the evidence against you. Your defense attorney will decide if it’s best to plea bargain or take your case to trial. One popular defense used in burglary cases is if the defendant thought they had a right to be at the place the alleged burglary was committed. For example, if you entered an abandoned house it would not be considered a “dwelling” under state statutes.
Another defense is the lack of intent to commit a theft or felony. For instance, if the perpetrator shoplifted an item on impulse and did not enter a store with the goal of stealing. Mistake of fact is another defense tactic, if the defendant thought he or she had permission to take an item from someone’s home.