SARASOTA BURGLARY ATTORNEY
The Crime Of Burglary In Florida
A burglary is a crime involving two elements. In other words, the prosecutor has to prove these two things:
(1) The defendant entered a structure or conveyance owned by, or in the possession, of another; and
(2) at the time of entering the structure or conveyance, the defendant intended to commit an offense therein.
Oftentimes the offense committed within the structure or conveyance is theft related, but not always.
It is possible to be convicted of burglary also by entering a structure or conveyance and committing some other offense, such as criminal mischief (damage to property) and not stealing anything at all.
What Degree Felony is your Burglary Charge? How long can you be locked up?
Degrees of the Offense of Burglary
All burglaries are serious crimes in the State of Florida as they are all felonies. However, there are several different levels or degrees of the offense of burglary.
First Degree Burglary Offenses in Florida – punishable by up to life in prison.
1. Burglary with an assault or battery (otherwise known as a “Burg Bat”): during the burglary the defendant assaults or batters a person.
2. Armed Burglary: The defendant becomes armed within the structure or conveyance with explosives or a dangerous weapon.
3. Burglary with Motor Vehicle as an Instrumentality: Typically charged when a defendant uses a vehicle (not necessarily as a getaway) to damage the burglarized property in some manner.
4. Burglary of Dwelling During an Emergency: This generally involves a second-degree burglary committed within a county that is subject to a state of emergency declared by the governor. Looting, in some circumstances, may qualify as a first-degree burglary.
Second Degree Burglary Offenses in Florida – punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
1. Burglary of a Dwelling (“Burg Dwelling”): The defendant enters or remains in a dwelling, regardless of whether there is a person inside or not.
2. Burglary of an Occupied Structure or Conveyance: The defendant enters or remains in a structure or conveyance wherein there is another person at the time the defendant enters or remains.
3. Burglary During an Emergency: A third degree felony burglary can be “upgraded” to a second degree if committed during a state of emergency.
Third Degree Burglary Offenses in Florida - punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
1. Burglary: If there are no aggravating circumstances a burglary in Florida is typically a third-degree felony offense.
2. Burglary of a Conveyance: Burglary of a conveyance involves a defendant entering or remaining in a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein.
A “conveyance" means any motor vehicle (such as a car or truck). The offenses is typically charged when one breaks into a car. However, it also includes breaking into a ship, vessel (such as a boat), railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, and/or a sleeping car.
DEFENSES TO BURGLARY IN FLORIDA
Every case is different and very fact specific. There can be many possible defenses. However, some general defenses to burglary can include:
The defendant was actually allowed on (or had some other legal right) to be on the property, building, house, apartment etc.
For instance, after a domestic incident a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc., is arrested and charged with burglary and battery after they allegedly “broke into” their own home. If someone lived at an address (was on the lease, or received mail there, or paid utility bills) it can be argued that they have every legal right to enter onto the property therefore it should not be charged as a burglary.
Open to the Public
No burglary occurs if the premises are, at the time of the alleged burglary, open to the public or if the defendant is invited to enter.
For instance, if a business like a convenience store is open to the public, and a defendant enters on to a public area and steals from the store, then it is not a burglary, perhaps a theft, but not a burglary.
However, if a defendant wanders into a private area of an open business (such as a private office) and commits an offense therein, then it may qualify as a burglary.
Burglary is a first-degree felony in Florida if, in the course of committing the offense, the offender is armed or becomes armed within the structure or conveyance with explosives or a dangerous weapon.
What exactly is a “dangerous weapon”?
Possession of a firearm at any time during the course of a criminal endeavor satisfies the statutory requirements of a dangerous weapon. However, depending on the age of the firearm, if it is “antique” it may not qualify as a dangerous weapon.
Not all weapons are “dangerous weapons”
A knife may be qualified as a “dangerous weapon.” However, a small multi tool may sometimes not qualify as a dangerous weapon.
If it is not used in an aggressive manner, it may not be a “dangerous weapon.”
In certain cases, whether something qualifies as a “dangerous weapon will depend upon how it was being used. For instance, a common pocketknife is not necessarily a dangerous weapon. However, it may be considered a "dangerous weapon" if it is used in a manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
How close was the weapon?
Also, Armed burglary requires the defendant to have had the firearm or weapon within immediate physical reach with ready access and with the intent to use the firearm during the commission of the offense.