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Public Schools Allegedly Burglarized For Copper Wiring

Local 10 reports that alleged burglars have climbed atop nearly a dozen Miami-Dade County public schools and stolen copper wiring that protects those schools from lightning strikes. Burglary of a school is classified as burglary of an unoccupied structure, a 3rd degree felony.

Copper thefts are not uncommon. The copper can be sold for cash to scrap metal yards. However, it is a burglary to enter a structure with the intent to commit a theft within that structure.

Additional charges can and often do accompany burglary charges, such as theft charges and criminal mischief charges, depending on the amount of damage.

Since it is hard to place a value on copper wire, sometimes the only theft charge is petit theft, along with the burglary charge.

Penalties for burglary of a structure can vary. In Miami-Dade County, it is possible to get Pretrial Intervention for a structural burglary. In Broward, probation is more likely, unless the accused has priors. Rarely, in Broward, is Pretrial Intervention offered for any burglary offense.

Burglary can be proven a number of ways. Fingerprints and DNA left behind at the scene can link a person to a burglary. However, if that person had permission to be at the location, then the fingerprints and DNA mean nothing.

Eyewitness testimony and video surveillance is also possible evidence, with video surveillance being much stronger than eyewitness testimony. As a former prosecutor, I believe that the strongest burglary cases consist of both physical evidence and a confession from the accused. That is why you should never speak to police without first consulting a criminal defense attorney. Most people do more harm than good by talking to the cops. Remember - you never have to talk to police when you are suspected of a crime. The police can threaten and lie all they want, but they have no power to force you to speak. If they do, your confession can be thrown out by the judge.

Without a confession, burglary cases can be difficult for the state to prove, unless recently stolen property is found in the accused's possession or is sold at a pawn shop. Even then, the state must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused obtained the stolen property from the burglarized location.

The point is - don't make the state's job easier than it needs to be. It is the defense attorney's job to exploit weaknesses in a case. That job becomes tougher when a client confesses. Always invoke your 5th Amendment right to remain silent.

Eric Matheny represents clients in Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to discuss your case.