Burglary is a very serious charge and could even be charged if the prosecution only has a small amount of evidence. If you are charged with burglary in the Tampa Bay area, you can face years and sometimes even life behind bars. What type of burglary and with that how many years in prison you are facing often depends on the facts of the case. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced Tampa theft crime attorney represent you.
Burglary is defined in Florida Statute 810.02 as
• Entering or remaining in a dwelling, structure or conveyance after permission to enter expired • With the intent to commit a crime while inside.
A “dwelling”, as defined in Florida Statute 810.011, does not only include a house or mobile home, but also includes the garage, any outbuildings on the property, such as a shed or the porch or patio. It can also include RVs or anything else designed to have people stay there
overnight. A “structure” is any type of building, either temporary or permanent, with a roof over it. A “conveyance” includes any type of car, boat, airplane or railroad car.
In order to “enter” a structure, dwelling or conveyance under the statute, you do not have to completely enter, it is enough to just have one part of your body inside, such as your hand. This means that you can be charged with burglary of a conveyance for example if you reach with your hand inside a car window as long as you have an intent to commit a crime.
The prosecutor does not need to have positive or direct proof that the defendant had the intent to commit a crime while inside. The prosecutor can simply rely on circumstantial evidence to prove intent. In fact the jury will be instructed that they are allowed to infer the requisite intent if the defendant entered either without the permission of the owner or occupant or entered in a stealth manner.
All burglary charges in Florida are a felony. However, depending on the circumstances and the facts of the case, it can either be a 3rd degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison or it can be a second degree felony or even a first degree felony, punishable by life in prison. The 3rd degree felony is the least serious charge and the first degree felony is the most serious charge.
Burglary will be charged as a first degree felony if
The defendant commits an assault or battery.
The defendant either is armed or becomes armed while inside with a dangerous weapon or explosives.
The defendant uses a car, other than just a getaway vehicle, to assist in committing the offense. This often involves cases where the defendant rams into a house or building with a vehicle.
The defendant causes damage to either the structure or dwelling or property inside in excess of $1,000.
Burglary which would otherwise be a 2nd degree felony will be reclassified as a 1st degree felony if the burglary is committed while the county is under a state of emergency “and the perpetration of the burglary is facilitated by conditions arising from the emergency.” This could for example include situations where the defendant breaks into a house or car during a riot or civil unrest or when the response of law enforcement is delayed due to the emergency.
Burglary will be charged as a 2nd degree felony as long as the defendant is not and does not become armed with a dangerous weapon or explosives and does not commit an assault or battery and
The defendant breaks and enters into a dwelling or emergency vehicle irregardless of whether or not anybody is inside.
The defendant breaks and enters or remains without permission inside a structure or conveyance when another person is present.
The defendant breaks and enters or remains without permission in a structure or conveyance with the intent to steal a controlled substance. The defendant can be charged with possession of controlled substance or possession with intent to sell a controlled substance as well as the burglary.
Burglary which would otherwise be a 3rd degree felony will be reclassified as a 2nd degree felony if the burglary is committed while the county is under a state of emergency “and the perpetration of the burglary is facilitated by conditions arising from the emergency.” This could for example include situations where the defendant breaks into a house or car during a riot or civil unrest or when the response of law enforcement is delayed due to the emergency.
Burglary will be charged as a 3rd degree felony if the defendant does not commit an assault or battery and is not and does not become armed with a dangerous weapon or explosives and
The defendant breaks and enters or remains without permission inside an unoccupied structure.
The defendant breaks and enters or remains without permission inside an unoccupied conveyance.
What type of sentence you face for burglary will depend on whether or not you are charged with a 3rd, 2nd or 1st degree felony and will, therefore, depend heavily on the facts of the case.
If you are charged with a 1st degree felony, and therefore the most serious type of burglary, you are facing life in prison. The first degree felony is a level 8 offense based on Florida Sentencing guidelines and carries 74 points. This would mean you are facing a minimum term of prison of
over 34 months even if there is no other charge and no points for any other aggravating circumstances, such as serious injury.
If you are charged with a 2nd degree felony you are facing up to 15 years in prison/ probation and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the burglary you are charged with is a 3rd degree felony, you are facing up to 15 years in prison or probation and a fine of up to $5,000.
A skilled and seasoned burglary defense attorney can help you beat or at least minimize your exposure for burglary. There are several possible defenses to a Tampa burglary charge.
The first type of defense is if you have permission to enter a dwelling, structure or conveyance. This includes situations when the property you are accused of entering is open to the public, such as a store or an amusement park or when you are present on the property to perform work for example, such as contractors present in your home for home repairs. If you have permission to be present on the property and the permission expires or is revoked, for example if a store closes and you remain “surreptitiously with the intent to commit an offense therein,” you can still be charged with burglary.
The second type of defense for burglary comes into play if you have no intent to commit a crime when you enter the dwelling, structure or conveyance. An example for that is if you stick your hand through a car window in order to pet a dog that is on someone’s lap inside the car and you accidentally strike the person inside the car. If your attorney is able to argue that there was no intent to commit a crime, the most the prosecutor can charge you with is trespass. That is a misdemeanor and in the example given above where the person reached inside the car and accidentally hits someone would be a difference between a life felony and a misdemeanor or a complete dismissal of the charges depending on whether or not the person had permission to stick their hand inside the car.
Technically, the answer is no. However, even if you have a right to represent yourself for any criminal charge, it is not a good idea especially when facing such serious charges as burglary. That is because many people are not familiar with the legal process and the fine nuances that could make a big difference in the case of burglary. An experienced Tampa burglary defense attorney can help you contact the state attorney even before criminal charges are filed and may, therefore, be able to help you avoid the filing of felony charges or the filing of criminal charges altogether. That is why you should contact an attorney at the Wade Law Firm immediately. Kerstin Wade has represented clients facing burglary and other criminal charges for over 10 years. Don’t wait and contact us today at 813-401-0130 for a free consultation.