Many people have heard the phrase “breaking and entering” on TV or in movies. This phrase is often used to refer to the crime of illegally breaking into a home, business, or other type of structure. Even though this is a popular and well-known phrase, there is no criminal offense called “breaking and entering” in the state of Florida. Instead, crimes related to illegally breaking and entering into a structure are known as burglaries.

What constitutes burglary in Florida? What penalties will you face if you are convicted of burglary? And how can a Tampa criminal defense attorney help you fight burglary charges? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

What Constitutes Burglary in Florida?

The exact definition of burglary may vary from state-to-state. But in Florida, burglary is the criminal act of:

  • Illegally entering a home, building, vehicle, or any other structure with the intent to commit a criminal offense once inside; or
  • Lawfully entering a home, building, vehicle, or other structure, but secretively staying inside with the intent to commit a crime; or
  • Lawfully entering a home, building, vehicle, or other structure, but remaining inside after the invitation to be on the property has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime.

It’s important to note that the state solely needs to prove that you had the intent to commit a criminal offense once inside the structure. This means you can face burglary charges even if you did not follow through with committing the crime once inside.

For example, if you break into someone’s home with the intent to steal their personal belongings once inside, you can still be charged with burglary even if you are caught before getting the chance to take anything.

What Penalties Will You Face For A Burglary Conviction?

The penalties that you could face if convicted of burglary will depend on the nature of your crime. This is because in Florida, burglary can be classified as a first degree, second degree, or third degree felony crime.

The degree of burglary you are charged with will depend on many factors, including what type of structure you entered, what you planned on doing inside, and whether or not someone was injured as a result of your crime.

For example, if you commit assault or battery against another person while committing burglary, you will face first degree felony charges. But if you commit burglary with the intent to steal controlled substances once inside the structure, you will face second degree felony burglary charges. If you illegally enter an unoccupied vehicle with the intent to commit a crime once inside, this is considered third degree felony burglary.

The penalties will vary depending on the type of felony you are charged with. First degree burglary is the most serious offense, so it carries the most severe potential penalties. If you are convicted of first degree felony burglary, you could face life in prison.

If you are convicted of second degree felony burglary, you could face up to 15 years in prison in addition to $10,000 in fines. Finally, if you are convicted of third degree felony burglary, you could face five years in prison as well as up to $5,000 in fines. 

How Can You Fight Burglary Charges?

You can face serious penalties if you are convicted of any degree of burglary, which is why it’s so important to hire an attorney who can help you fight these criminal charges.

Lawyers use a number of different strategies to defend clients who are accused of committing burglary. Some of the most common defense strategies used to fight burglary charges include:

  • Lack of intent: The state must prove that you had the intent to commit a crime once inside the structure. If you can show lack of intent—or weaken the state’s evidence that is being used to prove intent—you can beat burglary charges.
  • Mistaken identity: This strategy involves proving that eyewitnesses misidentified you as the person who committed the burglary. For example, if you have an alibi, this would prove that it could not have been you who committed the crime.
  • Legal status on the property: This strategy involves showing that you had authorization or permission to be on the property at the time the crime was allegedly committed. The authorization or permission may have been implied or expressly stated.
  • Reduced charges: Your attorney may fight to have your charges reduced from burglary to trespassing, which is a misdemeanor crime. Or, your attorney could fight to get your charges reduced from first degree felony burglary to second degree or third degree felony burglary. The goal of this strategy is to minimize the legal penalties you will face if convicted.

This is not an exhaustive list of strategies that can be used to fight burglary charges. It’s important to note that the exact strategy that is used to fight your charges will depend on the details of your case. Every case is unique, so your attorney will need to review your case to determine the best way to fight your charges and reach a favorable resolution.

Set Up A Free Consultation With A Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Have you been accused of breaking and entering in the state of Florida? If so, it’s strongly recommended that you seek legal representation from a criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett. Since 1971, our attorneys have represented over 15,000 clients in their criminal cases. Together, our team has over 125 years of legal experience. Because of our extensive experience, we know what it takes to win the most complex criminal cases.

If you are facing criminal charges, schedule a free consultation with our law firm today. Let us review the details of your case, explain your legal options, and work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case.