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Burglary Charges

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The word "burglary" usually means the crime of entering someone's home and taking their valuables. In Florida, however, there are many different types of burglary. When I was a Miami-Dade prosecutor, I handled thousands of burglary cases, and went to trial on quite a few of them. As a Miami criminal defense attorney, I have also handled, and presently handle, burglaries as well. They are treated as serious crimes by the State Attorney's Office so it is important to know what a burglary charge entails.
First off, let's talk about the maximum sentence for each type of burglary.
Burglary of an Unoccupied Conveyance (or car without an occupant in it) is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 5 years. This is the least severe of the burglary crimes, however it is still treated as a serious offense by prosecutors as there are usually alleged victims who are demanding restitution, or money, for damage done to the car and for any items taken.
Burglary of an Unoccupied Structure (or building, office, non-residence without an occupant in it) is also a 3rd degree felony. This, however, is more serious. Structure burglaries are typically "business burglaries." This may involve the breaking and entering into a business that has closed for the day. These types of crimes can often have angry alleged victims demanding tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in restitution. This can impact the State Attorney's decision on how to proceed with the case.
Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling (or home without an occupant in it) is a 2nd degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. This involves the unlawful entry into somebody's home with the intent to commit a crime inside. The crime inside, however, does not have to be a theft. If you enter a home with the intent to vandalize the interior, that is a burglary because the crime committed inside the home is criminal mischief. The simple entry into somebody's home is only trespassing, a misdemeanor.
Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling (or home with an occupant or occupants inside of it) is also a 2nd degree felony, punishable by 15 years. While the same degree felony as an unoccupied burglary, this crime is taken very seriously by the State Attorney's Office because of the fact that people are inside the home while the alleged burglary is occurring. The State Attorney's Office will almost always seek prison time against someone accused of Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling.
Armed Burglary is a 1st degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Armed burglary means that the accused person entered a home (or even a car) with the intent to commit a crime inside (theft, criminal mischief, etc...) and during the crime, the accused either was armed (had a weapon on them) or BECAME armed (found a weapon and possessed it). This means, that if somebody breaks into a home unarmed, but steals a gun from inside the home, they can be charged with armed burglary. Their offense just went from a 2nd degree felony to a 1st degree felony punishable by life in prison. Also, armed burglary qualifies for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years under Florida's 10-20-Life law. See my blog entry on "10-20-Life" for more information. If someone is charged with Armed Burglary, and the weapon alleged is a firearm, they will be held without bond until an attorney sets a special bond hearing.
Finally, the most serious of all burglary offenses is Burglary with an Assault or Battery. This is punishable by life in prison, and also carries no bond. Burglary with an Assault or Battery means that somebody enters a home, car, or business, without permission, with the intent to commit a crime inside, and that crime is either an assault or a battery. That means, that if someone commits a burglary on an occupied (for this crime to occur, the home, car, or business must be occupied) residence, business, or car, and makes verbal threats to the occupant, or touches or harms the occupant, they will face life in prison. This is one of the most serious crimes prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office, second to Armed Robbery, Sexual Battery, and Murder. Often times, Burglary with an Assault or Battery, can be charged along with Armed Robbery or Sexual Battery if either a rape or robbery occurs during an occupied burglary.
As you can see, burglary crimes are exceptionally serious. If you or someone you know is charged with any of these burglary offenses, call my office immediately. There are many defenses to these crimes that must be examined at the earliest point possible. The earlier a Miami criminal defense attorney can begin an investigation into the case, the liklihood of success grows tremendously.