Burglary of an unoccupied structure should not be confused with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling. Burglary of an unoccupied dwelling is a home burglary, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
While still a serious felony, burglary of an unoccupied structure is considered the lesser of all the burglary charges. The most serious of the burglary charges are burglary with an assault or battery (burg-batt) and armed burglary.
Burglary of an unoccupied structure occurs when somebody enters a structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. This means that the accused person must have the intent to commit a crime inside the structure, such as a theft, criminal mischief, or other offense. Simply entering the structure is not enough. That is merely a trespass, which is a misdemeanor. Courts have also held that the act of breaking into the structure does not constitute committing a crime inside the structure. In other words, breaking a window, climbing inside of a building, and doing nothing would likely constitute two misdemeanor charges: criminal mischief and trespass. You must commit a crime, or have the intent to commit a crime, inside of the structure.
Common structural burglaries occur in stores after they are closed. Electronics stores, clothing stores, even gas stations, can be broken into after hours by people looking for cash and other goods.
As a Miami-Dade County criminal defense attorney and former Miami prosecutor, I have dealt with many structural burglary cases. If the offender has no prior record, pretrial intervention is a possible option. The conditions of pretrial intervention on a structural burglary usually include a stay-away order from the establishment, as well as payment of restitution. A good criminal defense lawyer familiar with the Miami and Broward courts may be able to negotiate a fair monthly payment so that the restitution doesn't become a financial burden on the client.
If the client has a prior record, then pretrial intervention will likely not be offered. The client and the criminal attorney will look to the strength of the evidence. Does the store have surveillance footage? Are there fingerprints? Are there eyewitnesses? Did the client make a statement to police?
If the client has been enhanced as a habitual felony offender, habitual violent offender, prison releasee reoffender (PRRP), or any other "career criminal" designation, then the client may be facing anywhere from 10-15 years in prison. If the client is a habitual violent offender or a prison releasee reoffender, the client may be facing a mandatory minimum prison term of 5 years.
Burglaries are serious offenses in Miami and Broward. Their respective police agencies and State Attorney's offices go after those accused of burglary and seek convictions and jail time. If you or a loved one has been accused of burglary, call my office and speak with me, a Miami and Broward burglary attorney.