Today, the Sun-Sentinel
reported that a school security guard has been arrested in a two-month burglary
spree that targeted snack vending machines at schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward.
The suspect and an accomplice allegedly stole about $100 from each vending machine.
One of the alleged victims, a company that owns and supplies the vending machines to the schools, claims that they incurred $65,000 in damage and losses. This amount will play heavily into the restitution
this accused person may have to pay if convicted.
The burglary spree covered two counties. According to reports, the burglars entered the schools at night, using cutters to break open locks on gates. Once inside, they used bolt cutters or crowbars to cut the bars protecting the vending machines. Then they would pry open the machines and take the cash and change.
This accused person will face one count of burglary of an unoccupied structure
for each school he allegedly burglarized. He will not be charged with burglary of a dwelling
because a school is not considered a dwelling under Florida law. Therefore, the most he can face is a third-degree felony charge per burglary. A burglary of a dwelling is a second-degree felony.
However, additional charges will follow. For each act of theft, the accused may face petit theft
or grand theft
charges, depending on how much was taken from each vending machine.
He will also face felony and misdemeanor criminal mischief
charges for any damage done to the schools.
All in all, this accused person will likely face multiple felony counts that could add up to decades in prison.
When charged with burglary, a good criminal defense attorney
should look to see how strong the evidence is against their client.
What makes a burglary "strong" for the State versus what makes one "weak" depends entirely on the amount of evidence. As a former Miami-Dade prosecutor
, I handled hundreds, if not thousands, of burglary cases. I even went to trial on quite a few. I can tell you that a "strong" burglary exists if there are:
3) Video surveillance
5) Defendant in possession of recently stolen property
Each of these things alone may not amount to a strong case per se, but together they will make it easier for the State to prove the burglary.
However, fingerprints alone do not amount to a conviction. This accused burglar worked at one of the schools. If his fingerprints are found on the premises, then it is easily explainable that his fingerprints would be present since he works there and likely touches things on a daily basis. If his prints are found at other schools where he does not work, that makes a more compelling argument in favor of guilt.
DNA can exist in burglary cases in the form of sweat left on a surface, or skin cells. A crime scene technician can run a cotton swab over a surface, collecting DNA. This DNA can be analyzed at a lab and compared to the DNA of the suspect. If the accused touched a surface with a sweaty palm, some of that sweat residue can be collected. This residue will likely contain DNA. Since each of our DNA is unique, if there is a match between the DNA found and the DNA of the suspect, the odds are good that the suspect was at the scene of the crime.
However, in this case, the most damaging evidence will likely be video surveillance and a confession, if he spoke to police.
Remember - you never have to speak to police! The 5th Amendment protects us against self-incrimination. No police officer can ever force you to make an incriminating statement against yourself. If a police officer ever forces you to speak to them, or threatens you if you do not, you need to tell your lawyer right away. Confessions obtained by force or intimidation are inadmissible in court.
Burglary is a very serious crime in the State of Florida. If you or a loved one are facing burglary charges, call me
to discuss your case.