Under Florida burglary law, burglary charges are felonies that vary in degree based on the facts and circumstances of your case. If you are charged with entering a home, building or vehicle owned by another with the intent to commit a crime, you can be charged with burglary. Burglary is not the same as the charge of “breaking and entering” and does not require the intent or taking of anything. I’ve had burglary cases where someone was charged with burglary to a dwelling, a point based mandatory prison sentence offense, where the crime inside was a battery, criminal mischief, an assault, and a host of other allegations over the years. While most burglary cases usually do involve thefts, if the State claims you intended to commit any crime within the structure or vehicle, you can be found guilty of burglary.
Florida criminal law defines burglary broadly enough so that entry through an open, unlocked door or window without permission is the same as kicking the door down, minus the criminal mischief charge that usually accompanies the door kicking type of cases. Even more broadly. remaining inside after permission has been revoked, as long as there is an allegation of intent to commit a crime inside, can be enough for a burglary arrest and potentially a burglary conviction.
The intent aspect is important, because Florida criminal law requires a jury finding of intent to commit another crime once inside the property. Thus the fact that someone did not intend to commit a crime inside the property may be a defense to the crime of burglary. Other defenses can include the fact that the structure or building was open to the public during the alleged offense, or that you have a license or permission to be on or in the property or vehicle.
A burglary conviction in Florida carries penalties including lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines depending on the circumstances of your case. Generally, burglary of any degree is a serious felony carrying a lot of points under the Florida Punishment Code. Most plea bargains are not bargains at all. The first offer is usually a prison sentence, probation, fines, costs, other fees and restitution. Burglary is considered a first degree felony if the offense is claimed to be committed while you are armed with a weapon or explosive, if you commit an assault or battery upon another, if you enter a dwelling or structure with a vehicle and cause damage, or if you cause more than $1,000 worth of damage. A first degree felony is punishable by up to thirty years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Second degree felony burglaries are usually filed as Burglary to a dwelling, occupied or unoccupied. This means the prosecution is filing an Information of Indictment charging that while unarmed, you entered or remained in someone’s dwelling with the intent to commit a crime inside that dwelling. It does not matter whether the occupants are home at the time. Penalties for a second degree felony include imprisonment of up to fifteen years, and a fine of up to $10,000. However, be aware that someone with no prior record, what the law considers a first offender, is going to score fifty six points on a felony score sheet and anything above forty four points is a point based mandatory prison sentence – that’s the starting point of negotiations.
Finally, it is a felony in the third degree if you enter an unoccupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000.
A conviction of burglary can have long-lasting impacts on your daily life, including your ability to obtain and keep a job, not to mention a possible lengthy jail or prison sentence and a hefty fine. If you or a loved one have been charged with burglary, it is important that you speak with a certified, experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you determine the best strategy for fighting your burglary charge. Schedule a free consultation with certified criminal trial law specialist Stephen G. Cobb by calling (850) 423-0035 and let a qualified and strategic Destin criminal defense attorney help you fight your burglary charge today.
Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm
1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 101-B
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547