Like all crimes classified as felonies, burglary should be taken seriously. If you are convicted of these charges, you could potentially spend years in prison. Even just being charged with a felony is enough to have lasting consequences.
But burglary charges don’t have to devastate your life. Experienced lawyers, like those at Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., can guide you through the criminal defense process while protecting your rights and welfare.
Florida Burglary Laws
Burglary is one of many types of property crimes. According to Florida burglary statutes, burglary occurs when an individual enters or occupies another person’s premises with the intent of committing a crime. This offense is charged as a felony in Florida.
Florida Burglary Penalties
As previously noted, the penalties for burglary can be quite severe. The sentence for third-degree felony burglary in Florida is:
- Up to five years in prison
- A maximum $5,000 fine
- Up to five years of probation
Burglary can also be charged as a first-degree felony if the prosecution proves that you were armed with a dangerous weapon or committed assault and battery while engaged in the burglary. Armed burglary or burglary with assault and battery is charged as a first-degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Where Burglaries Occur
There is another way that burglaries can be charged at higher than a third-degree offense.
Both the location of the burglary and whether that location is occupied affect the level of the charge. In some cases, this will increase the charge to a second-degree felony, which can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Burglary of a Dwelling
If you are charged with burglary of a dwelling, you will face second-degree charges, regardless of whether the dwelling was occupied at the time. A dwelling is a building where people live. Typically, this means a home or apartment, but even a houseboat would count, although it is a form of conveyance.
Furthermore, if the governor has declared a state of emergency, the burglary of an unoccupied dwelling becomes a first-degree felony with appropriate penalties.
Burglary of a Structure
When premises aren’t designed to be occupied by people, the definition of that type of premises depends on whether it is mobile.
A structure isn’t mobile. It can be temporary or permanent as long as it isn’t designed to move. Additionally, a structure must have a roof over it. If someone is charged with burglary of a structure, the charge is a third-degree charge if it is unoccupied and second-degree if occupied.
Burglary of a Conveyance
A conveyance is anything designed to move but not designed to be a dwelling. This includes:
- Trucks and trailers
Similar to burglary of a structure, if you are charged with burglary of a conveyance, the degree of the felony will be higher if it was occupied at the time of illegal activity.
Defenses Against a Tampa Burglary Charge
The simplest defense against a burglary charge is innocence. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. Proving that you are innocent can be challenging, especially if the prosecution has a significant amount of evidence that could convince a jury you are guilty.
At Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., we use several strategies to defend against these charges. The following are some of the most common.
You Weren’t Present When the Crime Occurred
Proving a negative is difficult. But proving that you were at another location when the crime was alleged to have occurred may be easier. Our legal team will look for video evidence or alibi witnesses that can show that you were physically at another location when the break-in occurred.
While few people are lucky enough to be on camera at the exact time that a crime occurs, many types of activities are passively tracked. For example, if you were using your phone, there is usually a record of approximately where you were at that time. That can be enough to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges.
Lack of Intent
A key part of the definition of burglary is “an intent to undertake illegal activities.” This means you haven’t committed burglary if all you wanted to do was look around or something similarly legal. You might still have committed trespassing, but that is a much less severe charge.
If we can prove you were drunk or suffering from a mental illness at the time of a break-in, usually the prosecutor will drop burglary charges. Similarly, if you didn’t have any type of burglary tools and can provide another reason for breaking in that a jury might believe, you might not be convicted of this charge.
Disputing Whether Something Is a Dwelling
While the burglary of any dwelling is always charged as a second-degree felony, only the burglary of occupied structures and conveyances is charged at that level. This matters because sometimes it is unclear whether something is a dwelling or another type of premises.
Prosecutors usually charge the highest possible offense, knowing they can easily lower the charges later. This could matter, for example, if someone were living in their car or in a boat not designed to be occupied.
They might argue it became a dwelling based on use, while our attorneys would argue it was not. Assuming no one was present during the break-in, this could mean a difference of over a decade of prison time.
Some clients freely admit they committed the crime they are charged with. However, just because you committed a crime doesn’t mean you deserve the maximum penalty the law allows.
If a client is willing to suffer the consequences of their actions, we work with the prosecution to get the best possible sentence for them. Typically, if a client has no prior record and no one was injured in the break-in, we can negotiate for reduced charges that do not include prison time or probation.
One mistake doesn’t have to ruin your life. At Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., we understand this and will fight to get you a sentence that allows you to recover from your mistake.
Florida Burglary FAQs
The following are some common questions we receive about burglary charges:
Will I Lose My Right to Vote if I Am Convicted of a Burglary Charge?
Yes. Florida strips the right to vote of anyone convicted of a felony and won’t restore it until you have completed your entire sentence (including probation) and paid all fines and court fees.
How Long Does the Burglary Court Process Take?
Felony cases often take a year or longer to resolve if they end in a trial. However, the process may go a lot more quickly (maybe as short as a few weeks) if we can negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor.
What Are the Differences Between Burglary, Theft, and Robbery?
Many people confuse burglary with other property crimes like theft and robbery. While these terms are used interchangeably in common parlance, they have specific legal meanings.
Theft is a misdemeanor offense where an unauthorized person takes or uses someone else’s property without the intention to return it. It becomes a felony offense when the property’s value is over $300.
Robbery is similar to theft, except it involves the use of force, violence, or fear to facilitate taking the property. This is always charged as a felony.
Trespassing involves unlawfully entering or occupying another person’s premises without their permission. However, you needn’t be doing so intending to engage in an illegal activity.
Contact an Experienced Tampa Burglary Defense Lawyer Today
Even if you manage to avoid prison time, felony convictions can lead to a lifetime of challenges. At Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., we strive to help clients avoid the frustration and anxiety that can result from a felony conviction, and move past their burglary charges once and for all.