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Facing Burglary Charges

Under Florida law, a Burglary is defined as "entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter or notwithstanding a licensed or invited entry, remains in the dwelling, structure or conveyance: surreptitiously, with intent to commit an offense therein; after permission to remain therein has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense therein; or to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony."

A simple way to define burglary as a crime is to think about it as someone who invades the possessory rights of another person and then commits a theft or other crime while invading those possessory rights. The prosecution must show that the defendant not only entered and remained in the dwelling but had the intent to commit a crime there as well. The initial days after an arrest are crucial because it is during those days that the State Attorney's Office reviews police reports and determines whether or not to formally file charges.

According to Florida statutes, the term "dwelling" is categorized as a building that people use as a shelter, lodge, or home. This also includes the porch or entryway of the home as well as any buildings that are attached to the home including the garage. A dwelling can also consist of a mobile home, an RV, or a tent because they can be utilized as a home. A "conveyance" on the other hand consists of a car, truck, or other motor vehicle. This also includes airplanes, boats, or any other type of vessel that can be used to take people from one place to another.

Types of Florida Burglary Charges

Burglary can be charged as a first, second, or third degree felony in the state of Florida.

  • Burglary as a Third Degree Felony – This is a burglary to a conveyance or an unoccupied structure and offers a punishment of up to five years in prison.
  • Burglary as a Second Degree Felony – This is an enhancement of burglary as a third degree felony and occurs when the burglary is committed in a dwelling or structure of conveyance that is occupied at the time of the crime. Burglary as a second degree felony offers a punishment of up to fifteen years in prison.
  • Burglary as a First Degree Felony – This is the most harshly penalized form of burglary in Florida and offers a punishment of up to thirty years in prison. Since it is a more serious crime, additional elements must be proven by the prosecutor. These elements include any one of the following criteria: (1) The defendant committed an assault or battery while in the commission of the burglary, (2) the defendant was armed or became armed with a weapon while in the commission of the burglary, or (3) the defendant entered a dwelling or structure and uses a vehicle to assist in committing the offense or causes damages over $1,000 to the dwelling or property inside.

When a jury is instructed regarding a burglary offense, they are told that they must infer that the defendant had the intent to commit a crime inside the structure or conveyance he entered in a manner that was furtively and without the owner's consent. This intent looks at the operations of the defendant's mind which is not always capable of express and solid proof. Because of this, the prosecutor is allowed to attempt to establish evidence of the intent through the use of circumstantial evidence.

Additionally, the defendant's entire body does not have to physically enter the building or premises. If any part of the body crosses into the structure, including a foot or hand, it is sufficient to establish the defendant entered the home. If the defendant was in possession of recently stolen property and cannot provide a reason as to why he or she was in possession of recently stolen property, this can also be utilized as evidence by the prosecution to support a conviction of burglary.

Burglary v. Trespass

It is also important to realize that there is a difference between a trespass and a burglary in Florida. For example, an individual decides to take a short cut and pass through your yard with the intent to save a few steps in getting to his final destination. That individual has committed a trespass, not a burglary. On the other hand, that same individual walks across your yard, sees a skateboard, then decides to steal the skateboard. That individual has committed a trespass and a theft, but not a burglary. This is because that individual did not have the intent to steal the skateboard until after he entered the yard.

In Florida, you must have the fully formed intent to commit the crime prior to you committing a trespass in order to be convicted with burglary. Finally, consider the situation in which an individual sees your skateboard prior to entering the yard, then enters the yard with the intent of stealing the skateboard. This individual has committed the crime of burglary.

If you or someone you know is facing a burglary charge, or any other misdemeanor or felony charge, contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney at Taracks & Associates to help drop or reduce your charges.

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With more than 30 years of experience on both sides of the law, Attorney Barry Taracks has the knowledge and insight needed to build an effective defense for you. 

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