A recent story out of Palm Bay, Florida demonstrates that burglary is a crime, even if the items you take do not have significant value. Florida Today reported on an incident where men entered a home while the owner was sleeping and stole two packs of sausages and bread rolls. Surveillance cameras caught the perpetrators, and neighbors reported seeing three men matching the descriptions captured on the film. Regardless of the nature of the loot, burglary is a criminal offense that carries significant penalties. Hunger is not an excuse, but there are certain defenses to burglary crimes that a Florida criminal attorney can help you present in court.
Overview of Florida Law on Burglary
Burglary falls into the category of property crimes; specifically, it is the term used to describe entry onto the premises belonging to someone else, with the intent to commit an unlawful act. A Florida prosecuting attorney must prove:
- That you entered the property;
- You acted with intent to commit a crime, such as theft; and,
- You were not authorized to enter onto the premises.
It is possible to show that you were not authorized to enter the premises if you were initially allowed by the property owner, but the permission was revoked or expired. The prosecutor must prove all of these elements to convict you of burglary, so the omission of even one factor might result in an acquittal.
Criminal Penalties for a Burglary Conviction
In Florida, prosecuting attorneys may charge you with a first, second, or third degree felony for burglary, depending on the circumstances. If you used a vehicle to damage the property or cause more than $1,000 in damage to the dwelling or structure, you might be charged for a first degree felony. Second degree felony burglary may be the charge if you did not harm any occupants of the property and did not use a deadly weapon during the incident.
The penalties for burglary vary, but all involve both imprisonment and fines:
- Third Degree Burglary: A prison sentence up to five years, plus a fine not to exceed $5,000;
- Second degree Burglary: A maximum imprisonment term of 15 years, along with a fine of $10,000; and
- First Degree Burglary: A prison sentence that may include a life prison sentence, and fine up to $10,000.
If you have a prior criminal history, any prison sentence can be higher than the terms mentioned above.
Defenses to Burglary
You do have the right to present any defenses when charged with burglary, such as:
- The owner of the property gave you permission to be on the premises;
- The premises were a public place or open to the public; or,
- You did not have the intent to commit a crime before entering or while on the property.
If you have been charged with burglary in Florida, you need a qualified lawyer to fight for your rights and protect your interests. An attorney with experience in these types of cases will present proper defenses to ensure the best possible result. For more information on burglary cases in Florida, please contact the lawyers at Musca Law Criminal & DUI Defense to schedule a consultation.