Burglary is a crime that usually involves unlawful entry into a home or business, to commit a crime. While most people think of burglaries as theft crimes, this isn’t always the case. In fact, just trespassing through an open door could be considered burglary if you intend on committing a crime upon entering the building. Burglary laws are designed to protect homes (and businesses) and their owners from violence — not necessarily to protect the items inside from theft. In any event, burglary is a serious crime that can lead to serious penalties.
Burglary can be categorized as either a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge depending upon the jurisdiction. For example, in Maryland, fourth-degree burglary is considered a misdemeanor. However, burglary can also be a third or second-degree felony, depending on the details.
Each state has its own set of laws related to the crime of burglary. The classification of a particular burglary as either a felony or a misdemeanor varies.
While those who commit burglary and robbery are defined as those who use force, intimidation or violence to take something of value from another person, there is a difference between the two crimes.
Robbery is typically the term used to describe an offense involving forced property theft which is enacted while the victims are present. On the other hand, while burglary is generally defined under similar terms, the victims are not present while the theft is taking place.
Charges of burglary are generally prosecuted at the state level, with exceptions for particularly egregious or notable offenses.
First-degree burglary is usually considered the most offensive level of crime in jurisdictions such as Maryland and California that have various degrees of burglary.
In Maryland, fourth-degree burglary hinges around charges related to breaking and entering or possession of burglar’s tools. With third-degree burglary, the offense becomes more malicious with obvious criminal intent. Maryland escalates the crime of burglary to the second degree if your intent is to steal a firearm, while first-degree burglary charges require that the offender intends to commit the crime upon the victim with violence.
However, in California, only two levels of burglary are defined. First-degree burglary is a felony charge related to instances in which the offender burglarizes a commercial property. Second-degree burglary is considered to be a “wobbler” charge, which means it can be a felony or a misdemeanor charge, depending on the context, involving residential property (or properties).
Intent to commit an offense while entering another building or structure without permission is usually necessary to prove burglary charges.
The specific nature of the intent may matter depending on the jurisdiction. Some states require intent to commit a felony for the intrusion to be considered burglary, while in other jurisdictions, a proven intent to commit any crime (either a felony or misdemeanor) can substantiate criminal charges.
Because each state assigns a punishment for burglary according to laws established by their own officials, punishments vary.
In Florida, for example, if you are convicted of burglary, you could face life imprisonment (in the case of first-degree burglary, if you’ve also committed assault or battery during the burglary or are armed with a dangerous weapon). In cases where no victim was present at the scene of the crime, the sentence is usually less severe and might be up to five years imprisonment (or probation) as well as fines up to $5,000.
Intent is important during most cases involving burglary charges. If your lawyer can successfully prove to the court that you did not intend to commit an offense, despite lesser violations being provable, such as trespassing or public intoxication, it could be a successful strategy against burglary charges.
Another possible defense is innocence, such as mistaken identity or lack of evidence against the defendant. If you can dispute the material evidence regarding possession of certain items pursuant to the suit, you might be able to successfully defend yourself against burglary charges.
The legal definitions of burglary, along with the associated penalties, are largely dependent upon state law. Due to the lack of uniformity regarding burglary law, it is absolutely necessary to hire a burglary attorney who understands your state laws along with the details of your specific situation.
Don’t take your chances alone in court. Search for a criminal defense attorney in your area today, and get the legal representation you need to put these accusations behind you and keep them off your criminal record.