Burglary is a serious felony in Florida but often, it is the result of kids making poor decisions while bored. Breaking into cars is probably the most common Burglary charge in Destin. Many of my Burglary clients are young teens who made a stupid mistake. Their parents are often shocked to realize that although popping locks on cars does not seem like something you could go to prison for, under Florida law, you can. A simple mistake of “kids being kids” by breaking into a car or going into someone’s garage can lead to a permanent felony conviction and a possible prison sentence.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I’ve been a Destin burglary defense lawyer since 2001. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. Our clients depend on us to protect their freedom and their future. We take that responsibility very seriously.

If you or a loved one were recently arrested for Burglary in Destin, we would like to help. Call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 460-7470.

What if the police want to question me about break-ins in Destin?

This is very common with car burglaries, or Burglary of a Conveyance. If there have been a recent string of car break-ins, the police will be under a lot of pressure to “solve” the case and make arrests. Maybe someone gave the cops your name, or maybe someone matching your description was seen in the area. Either way, if the police suspect that you were involved, they will want to talk to you.

Do not make the mistake of talking to the police without talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney first. It is very unlikely that you will talk yourself out of trouble. It is far more likely that you will land yourself in even deeper trouble.

What does it mean to commit Burglary in Florida?

Burglary is defined in Florida Statute 810.02 as follows:

“entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter.”

The key elements that distinguishes Burglary from Trespass is the element of Intent. In order for the State to prove the crime of Burglary, they must prove that you entered the property with the intent to commit an offense. In order to prove the crime of Trespass, all they have to prove is that you entered someone’s property without permission.

What are the different types of Burglary in Destin, Florida?

There are three main types of Burglary under Florida law:

Burglary of a Conveyance

This is the most common Burglary charge in Destin. A conveyance is a car, truck, or any moving vehicle.

If the burglary was committed in an unoccupied vehicle, the charge of Burglary of an Unoccupied Conveyance is a 3rd degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 5 years in prison. However, if there is an allegation that the vehicle was occupied at the time of the Burglary, the charge of Burglary of an Occupied Conveyance is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Burglary of a Structure

The most common structures involved in Destin Burglary cases are garages, yard buildings, and commercial buildings.

Burglary of a structure is a 3rd degree felony if the structure was unoccupied. The maximum sentence is 5 years in prison. The charge gets a lot more serious if the structure was occupied at the time of the Burglary. In that case, Burglary of a Structure is a 2nd degree felony with a possible sentence of 15 years in prison.

Burglary of a Dwelling

A dwelling is anywhere people live. It can also include areas like the garage of a home if it is attached and is considered part of the curtilage of the home.

Burglary of a Dwelling has a possible sentence of 15 years in prison. It is also a Level 7 offense under Florida sentencing guidelines. A Level 7 charge scores 56 points. The sentence is calculated as follows:

56 points – 28 = 28. 28 x 0.75 = 21 months in prison as a minimum sentence.

Is it true that Burglary can carry a possible LIFE sentence in prison?

Unfortunately, there are 4 scenarios where Burglary is a first degree felony punishably by 30 years to life in prison. Those 4 scenarios are:

  • Burglary with Battery: Under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(a), if the offender, in the course of committing the Burglary, makes an Assault or Battery upon any person.
  • Burglary while Armed: Under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(b), if the offender is or becomes armed within the dwelling, structure, or conveyance, with explosives or a dangerous weapon.
  • Burglary of a Dwelling or Structure with damage to property exceeding $1000.00.
  • Burglary of a Dwelling or Structure and the offender uses a motor vehicle to assist in committing the offense, and causes damage to the dwelling or structure. The most obvious example would be ramming a car through a wall to gain entry.

What can an attorney do for me if I am charged with Burglary in Destin?

In every case that we defend in Destin, we build customized defense strategies for our clients. Every case is different, so there is no cookie-cutter strategy for defending serious felony crimes. Having said that, there are certain things that we do in every case. Here are a few examples:

  • A careful and thorough examination of all of the evidence against you. This includes police reports, video evidence, DNA evidence, witness statements, eyewitness statements, etc.
  • Can we make an argument that you were invited to be on the property? If so, the State may not be able to prove the case against you.
  • Can the State prove that you had intent to commit a crime when you entered the property? If not, the State may not be able to prove their case.
  • If our client doesn’t have a prior criminal record, we will negotiate with the State Attorney for a referral to a pretrial diversion program that will guarantee that your case gets dismissed.
  • If pretrial diversion is not an option, we will try to secure a dismissal of the felony in exchange for a plea to a misdemeanor Trespass. This saves you from having a felony conviction.
  • If the State is seeking jail or prison, we will work with you to develop a mitigation case that convinces the prosecutor to drop the jail or prison requirement. If they won’t agree, we will talk about the possibility of allowing the judge to decide your case at a sentencing hearing.
  • We will explore any and every option available to keep you out of jail or prison.
  • From day one, we will start preparing your case for a jury trial. The decision is yours on whether to go to trial, but either way, we will be prepared. We do not wait until the last minute to prepare our clients’ defense.

The bottom line is that you need a criminal defense attorney with experience and expertise in defending serious felonies such as Burglary. This is not the time to settle for the cheapest attorney and hope for the best. We have been defending clients accused of serious felonies for many years. Our job doesn’t make us very popular in social settings, but when your record and your freedom are one the line, we might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Contact a Destin Burglary Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a burglary in Destin, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.