Florida seeks to keep people safe in their homes. To that end, the state has criminalized burglary. Like trespass, burglary consists of entering or staying on someone's property without permission. However, burglary is a more serious crime, so you should contact an experienced Florida burglary attorney as soon as possible if you face charges. The Watson Firm can review the charges and defend you.
What Is The Definition Of Burglary In Florida?
The statute defines burglary as:
- Entering a building or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense inside, or
- Remaining inside a building or conveyance with the intent to commit a crime
The law recognizes that some people are invited into a building or have permission to enter. For example, you might be a guest invited to a party or a mechanic invited to work on some pipes under the kitchen sink. However, if you refuse to leave when asked—or if you hide—you have committed burglary if you acted with the intent to commit a crime.
The following are examples of burglary:
- Breaking open a door and entering someone's garage with the intent of stealing tools.
- Pushing open a window and crawling inside a house with the intent of raping someone inside.
- Hiding inside someone's home after a party intending to attack someone.
In each example, a person enters or remains in a building without permission but also intends to commit a crime.
Is It Burglary To Enter A Car?
Yes. You commit burglary by entering a dwelling (home), structure, or conveyance. The law defines conveyance to include:
- Motor vehicle
- Railroad vehicle
- Sleeping car
Something as simple as breaking into a car to steal something inside can result in burglary charges.
How Does Burglary Differ From Trespass?
They are similar in that both involve entering or remaining on a property when you don't have permission. Burglary, however, requires more: the defendant intends to commit a crime inside the building or conveyance. This intent to commit a crime makes the actions burglary.
Does The Defendant Have To Continue With The Plan And Commit A Crime Once Inside?
No. Burglary only requires the intent to commit a crime. If they went ahead and committed one, then that is solid proof of intent. But there might be other ways to show intent. For example, a robber could have drawn floorplans of a house and marked where a safe was located. These documents show an intent to commit theft once inside.
Another example: the burglar could attempt to sexually assault someone in the house, but the police arrive before the defendant completes the attack. Taking steps toward committing the crime is strong evidence of intent.
What Are The Penalties For Florida Burglary?
This is a serious crime. You are facing felony charges if arrested.
Burglary is a third-degree felony if you enter a building that isn't a dwelling or a conveyance and that doesn't have anyone else inside it. If this is your first criminal offense, you face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. You might face more time depending on your criminal history.
Burglary gets bumped up to a second-degree felony if any of the following is true:
- You entered a dwelling regardless of whether someone else was inside
- You entered a structure that had a person inside
- You entered a conveyance, and another person was inside
- You entered an emergency vehicle
- You entered a structure or conveyance with the intent to steal a controlled substance
If convicted of a second-degree felony, you face a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine (if this is your first criminal offense).
Burglary can also be a first-degree felony in certain situations:
- You assaulted or battered someone while committing the offense, or
- You were armed with explosives or a dangerous weapon, or
- You did at least $1,000 in damage to a dwelling or made use of a car to damage the building.
A first-degree felony conviction can send you to life in prison. Burglary is that serious.
How Do You Win A Burglary Case?
It isn't easy. At The Watson Firm, we have found that some defenses work better than others. It all depends on what facts we have at hand. Here are some ways we defend clients against burglary charges.
No Illegal Entry
If you were invited into the property or have a legal right to be inside, you haven't committed burglary. For example, you might be going through a divorce and staying with a friend. You go back home to get something from your garage. You have a legal right to enter the property since you still own the building.
Similarly, you might have been invited inside as a guest. It can become a crime if you are asked to leave and don't go or try to hide inside. But what if you don't? You haven't committed burglary because you are still legally on the property.
Lack Of Intent To Commit A Crime
Although you might have trespassed, we can argue there's reasonable doubt about whether you intended to commit a crime inside. It's not burglary to simply break in.
Realize, however, that another law says that entering "stealthily" is proof that you intended to commit an offense. This means that the jury could assume without other evidence that you intended to commit a crime inside if you snuck in.
But you can rebut that assumption. For example, you might have broken inside because you didn't want to wake up people who were sleeping. If you retrieved an object you own, like a tool you let your neighbor borrow, you didn't intend to commit a crime.
Someone might have broken into a building or car, but that doesn't mean it was you. For example, a masked man might have broken into a store and stolen goods. You might be found a day later with stolen goods, but that's because someone sold them to you. The only evidence consists of grainy closed-circuit television video.
What Should I Do If Arrested For Burglary?
You shouldn't talk to the police. Often, police get evidence of your intent to commit a crime by interrogating you. There is no reason to hand evidence to them. Instead, remain silent and tell them you want to speak to an attorney. Then contact our firm.
What Are Burglary Tools, And Is It A Crime To Have Them?
Burglary tools are any machine, tool, or device you possess with the intent to commit burglary or trespass. It is a third-degree felony if convicted.
For example, police might catch you snooping around someone's backyard with a screwdriver. This is a device that you could use to unscrew the handle on a door.
As with burglary, everything hinges on intent—did you intend to use the device or tool to commit trespass or burglary? If not, then you can't be convicted.
Contact Our Experienced Florida Burglary Attorney
Burglary charges are so serious that no one should try to defend themselves. Let The Watson Firm handle your case. We can try to negotiate a plea deal or convince a prosecutor to drop the charges. Contact us to schedule a consultation by calling 850-607-2929 or reaching out online.