The lawyers of Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A., located in West Palm Beach, FL, provide criminal defense for individuals facing Burglary charges.
It is not uncommon for people to confuse the terms theft, robbery and burglary. But there are important legal distinctions between those charges.
Burglary in Florida
Burglary is, essentially, a crime against property plus the intent to commit another crime. It describes the entry, or unlawful occupation, of another person’s premises with the specific intent to carry out a criminal act – usually theft or other forcible felony (murder, manslaughter, aggravated battery, kidnapping, etc…).
In order to be found guilty of burglary in Florida, a prosecutor must prove that:
- a defendant entered another’s premises without authorization or permission, or if the person did have authorization or permission to enter, chose to remain on the premises after that consent had expired or had been revoked, and
- did so with the intent of committing another illegal act.
If a person commits an offense, such as theft or robbery, while on premises on which he or she has a lawful or consensual right to be, that person cannot be charged with burglary. For example, a shoplifter cannot be charged with burglary when stealing from a store that is open to the public. That person can only be charged with theft or attempted theft. However, if that person enters a restricted area of the store with intent to commit theft, he or she can be charged with burglary.
If a person enters a property without right or consent, but has no intent to commit a crime while inside, that person may be convicted of trespass, but not of burglary. For example if someone was merely trying to get out of the rain and entered a property without authorization, but harbored no nefarious motive, he or she would not be charged with burglary.
Florida Burglary Crimes
Chapter 810 of the Florida Statutes stipulates the various crimes of burglary and their penalties by qualifying types of properties as either: a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance. A dwelling is a place of habitation; a structure is a building of any kind that is not designed for habitation, such as an office, a warehouse, a utility, etc.; a conveyance can be a car, trailer, ship, boat, etc. Thus, there are three types of burglary crimes in Florida with different fines and penalties – Burglary of a Dwelling, Burglary of a Structure, and Burglary of a Conveyance.
Burglary of a Dwelling
The crime of Burglary of a Dwelling is a Second Degree Felony. It carries a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or 15 years of probation. It also can cost a convicted defendant up to $10,000.
Burglary of a Structure
The penalties for the crime of Burglary of a Structure depend on whether the structure was occupied, or unoccupied. If the structure was occupied, it is a Second Degree Felony, and the penalties are the same as those of Burglary of a Dwelling, minus the minimum 21 month sentence. If the structure is unoccupied, the crime is a Third Degree Felony with the following potential penalties: up to five years in prison; up to five years of probation; and up to $5,000 in fines.
Burglary of a Conveyance
Burglary of a Conveyance is a Third Degree Felony. Its penalties are similar to that of Burglary of an Unoccupied Structure. An example of Burglary of a Conveyance would be reaching into another’s car, either through an open window or unlocked door, in order to steal a purse lying on the car seat.
First Degree Felony Burglary Crimes
Burglary of a dwelling, structure or conveyance can be classified as a First Degree Felony under the following circumstances:
- The defendant was armed or became armed during the commission of the offense
- The defendant committed assault or battery upon another person during the commission of the offense
- The defendant used a motor vehicle in entering a building, thereby damaging it
- The defendant caused more than $1,000 in damage to a building or its contents
In Florida, a First Degree Felony crime can carry a conviction of up to 30 years, and sometimes even life, in prison. For example, stealing a gun from inside someone else’s home, even if that gun is never used or intended to be used, can carry a life sentence.
Other Burglary Offenses
A defendant can be charged and convicted of burglary even if he or she did not commit another offense. Illegal entry and illicit intent are the operating characteristics. For example, if a person breaks into a car with the intent to steal it, but is unable to complete the crime for any reason, he or she can still be charged with burglary, as well as attempted theft.
In Florida, it is a crime to cut a phone or power line (or damage related equipment) in the course of a burglary or attempted burglary. It is also illegal to possess any burglary tool with the intent to use it, or to allow its use, in the commission of a crime.
A conviction for burglary can result in prison time, fines, and a felony criminal record. If you are charged with the crime of burglary in Florida, you need to contact an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney that will fight for your rights. If you or a loved one has been charged with Burglary in Florida, don’t wait. Contact us immediately for a free consultation. We can help you understand the law and how your case is likely to proceed. Our job is to protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.