Burglary is a serious crime in the state of Florida. Every year, thousands of people are arrested for burglary in this state. Those that are convicted of this crime can face severe legal penalties, including incarceration and substantial fines.

If you are arrested for and charged with burglary, it’s important to consult an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney to learn more about your criminal charges. What is burglary? What are the different degrees of burglary in Florida? What penalties will you face if you are convicted of this crime? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

How is Burglary Defined in Florida?

Each state has its own definition of burglary. But in Florida, burglary is defined as the 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a home, building, vehicle, or other structure, but remaining inside after the invitation to be on the property has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime.

You don’t have to commit a crime once inside the home, building, vehicle, or structure in order to face burglary charges. The state can charge you with burglary as long as you had the intent to commit a crime—regardless of whether or not you acted on it.

What Are the Different Degrees of Burglary Offenses in Florida?

There are three different degrees of burglary offenses in the state of Florida: first degree burglary, second degree burglary, and third degree burglary.

You can be charged with first degree burglary if:

  • While committing burglary, you assault or batter another person; or
  • You have explosives or another type of dangerous weapon in your possession while committing burglary; or
  • You use a motor vehicle to assist with the commission of burglary, which results in property damage to the home, building, or structure; or
  • You cause $1,000 or more in property damage while committing burglary.

You can face second degree burglary charges if:

  • You commit burglary of a dwelling; or
  • There is another person inside the structure at the time you commit burglary; or
  • There is another person inside the conveyance at the time you commit burglary; or
  • You commit burglary of an authorized emergency vehicle.
  • You commit burglary of a structure with the intent to commit theft of a controlled substance.

You can face third degree burglary charges if:

  • You commit burglary of an unoccupied structure.
  • You commit burglary of an unoccupied conveyance.

First degree burglary is the most serious of the three crimes, whereas third degree burglary is the least. But every burglary crime is classified as a felony, so do not make the mistake of taking these charges lightly.

What Are the Penalties For Burglary in Florida?

If you are convicted of burglary—regardless of whether it is first, second, or third degree—you will face serious penalties.

First degree burglary is a first degree felony in Florida, which is punishable by up to life in prison. Second degree burglary is a second degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Even third degree burglary, which is the least serious of all three burglary charges, can lead to years in prison. This is a third degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

How Can An Attorney Fight First Degree Burglary Charges?

A first degree burglary conviction can lead to serious penalties, including life in prison. This is why it’s so important to aggressively fight first degree burglary charges with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

A number of defense strategies could be used to fight first degree burglary charges. Some of the most common strategies include:

  • Mistaken identity: This entails showing that eyewitnesses misidentified the defendant as the person who actually committed the crime.
  • Lack of intent: Many cases hinge on whether or not the state can prove the defendant had the intent to commit a crime once inside the property. If an attorney can show that the defendant lacked intent, they may be able to beat these charges.
  • Reduced charges: Sometimes, the best strategy is to negotiate with the state to reduce first degree burglary charges to second or third degree burglary charges, which carry lighter penalties.
  • Legal status on the property: If the defendant was legally on the property at the time the alleged crime was committed, they were not committing burglary. For example, if the property owner invited the defendant over and did not withdraw this invitation at any time, the defendant did not commit burglary.

These are some of the many strategies that could be used to beat first degree burglary charges. It’s important to note that every burglary case is unique, so the strategy your attorney chooses to use to fight your charges will depend on the details of your case. In other words, a strategy that is effective in one burglary case may not be effective in another.

Schedule A Free Initial Consultation With A Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with burglary in the greater Tampa Bay area, it’s imperative to seek legal representation from a skilled criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett. Since 1971, our team of criminal defense attorneys has helped thousands of clients protect their rights and fight to clear their names. We know what it takes to reach the best possible outcome in your case—let us prove it to you.

Don’t wait any longer to fighting for your freedom—call our law office now to schedule a free initial consultation regarding your first degree burglary case.