Burglary Lawyer in Sarasota, FL: Get the Defense You Need
Burglary is a felony offense in the state of Florida that the state takes very seriously. If found guilty, depending on the specific nature of the crime, you could be looking at anywhere from five years to life in prison.
With so much at stake, you can’t leave anything to chance. By hiring the best burglary lawyer in Sarasota, FL, you will be putting yourself in the best possible position to avoid the most severe consequences and perhaps even clear your name.
If you’ve been charged with any form of burglary in Florida, don’t hesitate. Contact Smith and Eulo today. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about your charges.
What is Burglary in Florida?
According to Florida statutes, burglary is defined as “entering or remaining in a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein.”
The only exception to this is if the premises are open to the public or if you’ve been invited or licensed to be there.
Some important things to note about these charges include:
- Burglary does not mean anything was stolen — Many people use the term “burglar” or “burglary” to refer to theft. But the crime of burglary is committed when you enter a premises you’re not meant to enter and have the intent to commit an offense.
- There is an emphasis on intent — If you enter a premises in which you’re not authorized to enter and have the intent to commit an offense, whether it’s robbery, theft, battery, murder, or anything else, then you have committed burglary. It doesn’t matter if you actually carry through with that intention. You can still be charged. If you do carry out this action, then you can be charged for additional crimes.
Burglary vs. Trespass
Two charges that are very similar to one another in the state of Florida are burglary and trespass. They are effectively the same with one major difference: the intent to commit an offense.
If you enter a premise (structure, building, conveyance, etc.) without permission and are warned or asked to leave and remain, then you have committed the act of trespassing, which is a second degree misdemeanor. Unless you are armed or become armed, then it is elevated to a second degree felony.
Remember, however, that warnings do not always need to be verbal. If you enter a property that has a “private property” or “no trespassing” sign in front of it and you go forward anyway, this can count as a sufficient warning and can still result in trespassing charges.
Charges Often Confused with Burglary
As mentioned, burglary charges are often confused with other charges, typically because they are charged at the same time. The most common crimes confused with burglary are:
- Theft — This is defined as the taking of someone’s property without their permission. Depending on the value of the stolen items, the charge can be elevated to grand theft and carry heavier penalties.
- Larceny — Larceny is not its own separate charge. Instead, it is a type of theft that is usually charged when the item stolen is something small. Pickpocketing crimes are often charged as larceny, though this can be elevated to grand larceny if the item stolen is of high value.
- Robbery — Robbery charges come about when something was stolen but in the process of stealing it the charged individual used force or threatened force. If they used a deadly weapon, this gets elevated to armed robbery, which is a first degree felony.
Because theft and/or robbery usually include entering a premise in which you are not authorized to be, these charges are often brought alongside burglary charges. But they are not necessarily connected. Even if you don’t steal anything, you can still be charged, and found guilty, of burglary.
How is Burglary Charged in Florida?
Burglary in the state of Florida can be charged as either a first-, second-, or third-degree felony, depending on what happened and where the act was committed. Because of the varying degrees of the charges, consequences also vary widely.
Here’s a summary of the different types of burglary charges in the state of Florida:
First Degree Burglary
Burglary will be charged as a first degree felony if, in the process of committing the act, you:
- Commit assault or battery, i.e. threaten violence and/or actually use it
- Are or become armed in any way (grabbing a knife when someone enters the home counts, even if you didn’t bring it with you)
- Use a motor vehicle as an instrument to the burglary, for example as a getaway car
- Cause damage to the property in excess of $1,000
As a first degree felony, this type of burglary charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Second Degree Burglary
You will be charged with a second-degree burglary felony if you:
- Enter a dwelling, i.e. someone’s home, no matter if there is someone there or not.
- Enter a structure or conveyance and someone is there
- Occupy an authorized emergency vehicle
- Enter a structure with the intent to commit theft of a controlled substance
Here, the state of Florida is making distinctions about the type of building you’ve allegedly entered without authorization. Entering a home is always a second-degree felony. No exceptions. However, entering an empty structure or conveyance is not always charged in this way.
But if you commit the act while armed or become armed, then it doesn’t matter the type of building. It will be charged as burglary in the first-degree no matter what.
To clarify, a structure is a building that is not a dwelling. It could be a business, or it could be a partially constructed home. A conveyance refers to a piece of real estate that is in the process of being transferred from one owner to another.
As a second-degree felony, this charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Third Degree Burglary
The final charge of burglary the state of Florida can bring against is third-degree burglary. This occurs when you enter a structure of conveyance that is completely unoccupied.
While this is the least severe of the three types of burglary, it is still a felony. If convicted, you could face up to five years in prison and will be labeled as a felony offender for the rest of your life.
State of Emergency Enhancer
Something else to keep in mind about burglary charges in the state of Florida is that if the act in question is alleged to have been committed during a state of emergency, such as in the aftermath of a hurricane or other severe weather event, the charge is automatically enhanced by one degree.
For example, if you committed an act that would normally be considered second-degree burglary but it happened during a state of emergency, you would be charged with burglary in the first degree.
The same stipulation applies if you commit the burglary in the wake of a riot.
This enhancer exists to try and prevent people from looting during times of crisis and to impose harsher penalties on those who do.
Potential Defenses Against Burglary
Given the severity of the charges, if you’ve been accused of burglary of any degree, it’s normal to be concerned. However, there is hope when it comes to defending yourself. While your specific defense will come from the details of your case, some avenues you can pursue include:
- Disproving intent — For an act to be considered burglary, you must have the intent to commit an offense while inside the building that you’re unauthorized to be in. If you don’t actually commit this act, proving this intent can be hard, and if we can cast doubt on this aspect of the charge, we can often get burglary charges reduced to trespassing, which carries far less severe consequences.
- Arguing the type of building — As you saw, the type of property you enter into makes a difference when it comes time to process burglary charges. The state may claim the building is a dwelling, but is it? Or, they may argue someone was there, but can we prove that? Probing these aspects of the case can expose holes in the prosecution’s case and can lead to reduced or dropped charges.
- Did you remain? — For burglary charges to be successfully convicted, the state must also prove that you “remained” inside the property. Entering alone is not enough to produce burglary charges. When defending you in court, we will look at these details from your case to try and get charges reduced or dropped.
Hire the Best Burglary Lawyer in Sarasota
Burglary charges are not to be taken lightly. Your freedom and the rest of your life are on the line. As you can see, there are ways you can defend yourself. But how you do this will change based on the specifics of your case.
At Smith and Eulo Law Firm, we have been defending people from burglary charges in the state of Florida for years, and we’re ready to do the same for you.
If you or your loved one find themselves in a situation where you are being accused of a burglary? Call us right away at 941-217-2118 to speak with a qualified legal professional or fill out the contact form on this page. We’re available 24/7, we offer free initial consultation and payment plans. In addition to our Sarasota office, we have offices in the following cities across the state of Florida:
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