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Everything About Burglary

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One of the more serious felony offenses you can be accused of committing in Florida is burglary. State law essentially defines a "burglary" as the unlawful entering onto or remaining on a property with the intent to commit a crime on that property.

So first and foremost, merely entering a property without anything more is a misdemeanor trespass because the individual who enters or remains on the property must have an intent to commit a crime on the property. Usually this crime is a theft - doesn't matter if it's petit theft or grand theft - although ANY crime, such as criminal mischief, assault, battery, or otherwise, will satisfy the statute.

So entering a property - be it a car, an office building, or a home - with the intent to commit a crime inside of that property is a burglary. But you will notice that I also used the word "remain" earlier in this post. That is because it is considered a burglary to REMAIN on a property after you have been told to leave by the property owner or somebody with that level of authority.

For example, you go to a bar and get too intoxicated. You are an invited guest in the bar, but once the manager comes and tells you to leave, you are no longer allowed to be on the premises. Your invitation has been revoked and by remaining, you are trespassing. The manager could call the police and have you arrested.

Now pretend that you fail to leave the bar, and after being told to leave by the manager, you wander into the back office and steal cash from a lock box. Normally the crime would simply be theft - petit theft if the amount was less than $300, grand theft if the amount was greater than $300. But since you remained on the property after being told to leave, your theft has elevated a simple trespass to burglary. Get it?

Now there are really three main types of burglary. Burglary of a structure; burglary of a dwelling; burglary of a conveyance. A structure is any non-residential building, such as an office building, warehouse, or business. Basically, a place where people do not live nor spend the night. A dwelling is a house, apartment, mobile home. Anywhere that people live and could be expected to spend the night. A conveyance is a car.

It matters if the structure, dwelling, or conveyance is occupied or unoccupied.

Burglary of an unoccupied structure is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in state prison. Burglary of an occupied structure is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

Burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and burglary of an occupied dwelling are both second-degree felonies.

Burglary of an unoccupied conveyance is a third-degree felony. Burglary of an occupied conveyance is a second-degree felony.

Armed burglary or burglary with an assault or battery are both punishable by life in prison.

Whether your burglary case is in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, or Palm Beach County, understand that you are facing significant prison time. It is important to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney so that you understand how best to defend yourself against these serious allegations.

Eric Matheny is a former Miami-Dade County prosecutor. He practices criminal defense exclusively and serves clients in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County.