According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were nearly 15,000 burglary arrests in the state of Florida in 2018. Burglary is a serious property crime, so if you are arrested and charged with burglary, you may face severe consequences.

What exactly is burglary? How does the law in Florida define this crime? If you are accused of committing burglary, will you face misdemeanor or felony charges? The best way to learn more about burglary charges is to speak to an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney. But keep reading and you will find the answers to these questions and more.

What is Burglary in Florida?

Many people use the terms “burglary” and “theft” interchangeably, but they are actually two different crimes in Florida. The crime of burglary is defined as the act of:

  • Entering a home, building, or other structure with the intent to commit a crime once inside, or
  • Lawfully entering a home, building, or other structure, but surreptitiously remaining inside with the intent to commit a crime, or
  • Lawfully entering a home, building, or other structure, but remaining inside after the invitation to be on the property has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime.

For example, if you break into someone’s home with the intent to steal their property, this would be considered burglary. You can be charged with burglary if you are invited to someone’s home, but secretly remain inside the home in order to steal their property or commit another type of crime. 

Is Burglary A Misdemeanor or Felony in Florida?

Burglary is classified as a felony crime in the state of Florida. But the type of felony you will be charged with will vary depending on the nature of the crime.

Burglary is charged as a first degree felony if:

  • You commit assault or battery against any person while committing burglary, or
  • You are armed with explosives or another type of dangerous weapon while entering the home, building, or structure, or
  • You use a vehicle as an instrument to commit the burglary and cause damage to the home, building, or structure while doing so, or
  • You cause more than $1,000 in damage while committing the burglary.

This is the most serious of all burglary charges. If you are convicted of felony burglary of the first degree, you could face up to life in prison.

Burglary is charged as a felony of the second degree if:

  • The crime involves entering or illegally remaining in a dwelling, or
  • You enter or illegally remain in a structure and there is another person present in the structure at the time you commit the crime, or
  • You enter or illegally remain in a conveyance and there is another person present in the conveyance at the time you commit the crime, or
  • You enter or illegally remain in an authorized emergency vehicle, or
  • You enter or illegally remain in a structure with the intent to commit theft of a controlled substance once inside.

Second degree felony charges can lead to up to 15 years in prison in addition to a maximum $10,000 fine.

Burglary can also be charged as a felony of the third degree. It is classified as this type of felony if:

  • You enter or illegally remain in a structure and there is not another person present in the structure at the time you commit the crime, or
  • You enter or illegally remain in a conveyance and there is not another person present in the conveyance at the time you commit the crime.

If you are convicted of felony burglary of the third degree, you can face up to five years in prison in addition to up to $5,000 in fines.

How Does Your Intent Impact Your Burglary Case?

Many burglary cases hinge on the state’s ability to prove intent. This is because the prosecutor must prove that you had the intent to commit a crime once inside the dwelling, building, or structure.

For example, say you are invited to a friend’s house for the first time, but you mix up the addresses and accidentally enter someone else’s home. This is a simple misunderstanding, and you clearly did not have the intent to commit a crime once inside the person’s home. Therefore, you did not commit burglary even though you illegally entered someone’s home.

Remember, the burden of proof falls on the state, not the defense. This means the state is responsible for proving that you are guilty of burglary “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Your defense attorney will work tirelessly to poke holes in the state’s evidence and weaken their case.

What Are Common Burglary Defense Strategies?

A burglary arrest does not always lead to a conviction. There are a number of different ways to fight burglary charges. The strategy that your defense attorney will use to beat your charges will depend on the nature of the crime and the facts of the case. Some of the most common strategies that are used in burglary cases include:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Lack of withdrawal of permission to remain on the property
  • Implied invitation to be on the property
  • Property owner’s consent

Your criminal attorney will carefully review the details of your case to determine the most effective defense strategy to use to fight your charges.

Discuss Your Legal Options With Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

Don’t face burglary charges without an experienced criminal defense attorney from Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett by your side. If you have been charged with this crime, contact our law firm as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can begin protecting your rights and fighting to reach the best possible outcome in your case.

Since 1971, our criminal defense attorneys have helped the accused fight their charges and secure their freedom. Now, let us put our experience and resources to work for you. Schedule a free consultation regarding your case today.