Jacksonville Burglary Defense Attorney

Many people associate the term “burglary” with breaking into someone’s home to steal from them. Though that is one common form of burglary, the crime of burglary in Florida is much broader. It doesn’t necessarily require breaking and entering, doesn’t necessarily take place in a home, and may involve crimes other than theft. 

The best source of information about the details of Florida burglary law and the strength of the case against you is an experienced Jacksonville burglary lawyer. The information on this page will give you a general idea of the elements of burglary, the consequences of a burglary conviction, and other related crimes.

What is Burglary in Florida? 

Florida law defines burglary as “entering a dwelling, structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein”.

That sounds a little complicated, so let’s break it down: 

  1. Entering a structure, building, apartment, house, vessel, vehicle, aircraft, or other conveyance
  2. With the intent to commit an offense inside

Now please understand this doesn’t mean you have to be afraid to enter stores to purchase goods or to travel to a friend’s home.  A person does not commit burglary merely by entering a building or vehicle. In fact there are exceptions when a premise is open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter. The real key with burglary is the element of intent, or more specifically that when a person enters they possess the intent to commit an offense within the structure or conveyance entered

Now in Florida the Courts have held that the intent with which an act is done is an operation of the mind and, therefore, it is not always capable of direct positive proof. As such intent may be established by circumstantial evidence. The most common form of intent found in burglaries might be the intent to steal something, however as discussed above any criminal intent will suffice. This includes but is not limited to the intent to hurt someone inside a structure or conveyance as well as the intent to damage property within a structure or conveyance.   

A Second Variation of Burglary in Florida 

Now not all forms of burglary hinge on entering. In fact there is a second form of Burglary in Florida that can be committed even if a person entered a structure or conveyance legally. In these scenarios if consent to be within a structure or vehicle is withdrawn and a person remained within under any of the three following circumstances then a burglary would have been committed: 

  • Surreptitiously (sneakily) with the intent to commit an offense therein, or
  • After permission to be there has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense therein, or
  • To commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony

It’s also important to note that while the crime of burglary requires a criminal intent, it is not necessary that the actual crime intended upon entry be carried out. Thus if a person entered a home with the intent to commit theft, then a burglary has been committed regardless of whether or not anything was actually taken. That said in instances where this crime is carried out it makes proving the requisite criminal intent easier for the prosecution.  

Florida Burglary Statistics

In the most recent year, full data is available for, 71,801 burglaries were reported across the state of Florida. More than 5,000 of those burglaries took place in Duval County. Residential burglaries were significantly more common than burglary of non-residential structures, such as stores. Residential burglaries were more likely to happen during the day, while non-residential burglaries are more common at night. 

Penalties for Burglary in Florida

The classification of a burglary crime and the possible penalties depend on the specifics of the incident. The least serious Florida burglary crime is a felony of the third degree, carrying a possible penalty of up to 5 years in prison.

Burglary is a felony of the third degree when: 

  • The burglar does not make an assault or battery, and
  • The burglar is not armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive at any time during the course of the crime, and 
  • The burglar enters a structure or conveyance and there is no other person present when he enters or while he remains inside, and
  • The burglar does not cause damage of more than $1,000 dollars

In other words, if the burglar is armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive, commits an assault or battery, enters a dwelling, or enters or remains in a structure or conveyance where another person is present, the crime is more serious and carries more severe penalties. 

Burglary is a felony of the second degree, carrying a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years in prison, if:

  • The place the burglar enters or remains is a dwelling,
  • The place the burglar enters or remains is an authorized emergency vehicle,
  • The place the burglar enters is a structure or conveyance and another person is present, or
  • The place the burglar enters is a structure or conveyance and the intended crime is theft of a controlled substance, AND
  • The burglar is not armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive and does not commit an assault or battery

Burglary is a felony of the first degree, carrying a possible penalty of up to life in prison if the burglar:

  • Commits an assault or battery on any person, 
  • Is or becomes armed with a deadly weapon or explosive, or
  • Enters a dwelling or structure and either
    • Uses a motor vehicle to further the offense (other than simply as a getaway vehicle) and damages the dwelling or structure, or
    • Causes more than $1,000 in damage to the dwelling or structure, or to property inside it

The Burden of Proof in Burglary Cases

It’s not enough for a Jacksonville jury to think the defendant is probably guilty. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. However, Florida law makes the prosecutor’s job a little easier in a burglary case. The burglary statute says that proof of entering a structure or conveyance “stealthily and without consent of the owner or occupant” is prima facie evidence of entering with intent to commit an offense. A similar provision applies when the charge is attempted burglary.

In simple terms, that means that if the prosecution proves that the defendant entered the structure or conveyance stealthily and without consent, it is presumed that he or she intended to commit an offense within. That presumption is rebuttable, but the burden falls on the defendant to overcome the presumption. So if you or a loved one are charged with a burglary and the facts trigger such a presumption it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced burglary defense attorney. 

Burglary-Related Crimes in Florida

Other burglary-related crimes in Florida include: 

Possession of Burglary Tools

Possession of burglary tools is a felony of the third degree, carrying a possible sentence of up to 5 years. However, a conviction for possession of burglary tools requires more than simply carrying a lock pick or other tool that could be used in a burglary. And, the tool need not be an implement that is solely or specifically used for burglary. 

There are three elements to the crime of Possession of Burglary Tools 

  • A Defendant intended to commit a burglary or trespass,
  • The Defendant had in their possession a tool, machine, or implement that they intended to use in the commission of a burglary or trespass, and 
  • The Defendant did some overt act toward the commission of the burglary or trespass. 

Trespass

There are many types or variations of the criminal offense of  trespass in Florida. But there is a particular variation of trespass that bears similarity to the offense of burglary, A person commits the crime of trespass in a structure of conveyance when he or she: 

  • Wilfully enters or remains in any structure or conveyance without being authorized, licensed or invited, or
  • Having been authorized, licensed or invited, is warned to depart the structure or conveyance and refuses to do so

Essentially this is like a burglary but without the criminal intent element that is so critical. Trespass in a structure or conveyance is a misdemeanor of the second degree, meaning that the maximum sentence is 60 days in jail. This type of trespass is a lesser included offense of burglary. In other words, anyone who commits burglary has also committed this crime. However, the defendant can’t be convicted of both based on the same set of facts. 

Talk to a Jacksonville Burglary Attorney

If you’ve been charged with burglary, there’s a lot at risk. All Florida burglary charges are felonies, and some types of burglary carry a possible life sentence. You can’t afford to wait and hope for the best, or to rely on just any attorney. 

Attorney Matthew Lufrano has devoted his practice to criminal defense. He is certified by the Florida Bar as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. To learn more about how Mr. Lufrano can put his knowledge and experience to work for you, schedule your free consultation right now. You can get started by calling 904-513-3905 or filling out our brief contact form.