Home burglary charges are often confused with crimes of home invasion robbery or theft. However, burglary and robbery are separate charges that carry vastly different penalties. Robbery involves taking someone’s property by force or violence, while burglary involves entering someone’s home or vehicle property with the intent to commit a crime. If you have been arrested for breaking into or unlawfully entering a home, you’ll need an experienced burglary lawyer to build your best defense.
When Could I Be Convicted of Burglarizing a Home in Florida?
Under Florida Statute 810.02, a person can be charged with home burglary if they illegally enter a dwelling without permission and intend to commit an offense. A house is considered a “dwelling,” but so is any structure with a roof over it used for temporary or permanent inhabitation. Burglary is committed as soon as an offender enters the dwelling, regardless of whether the intended crime was carried out.
In Florida, a burglary is committed when a person:
- Enters a dwelling or structure owned by (or in possession of) another person and has an intention to commit an offense in the dwelling at the time of entering.
- Lawfully enters a dwelling or structure with the owner's consent but remains inside surreptitiously, or after permission to enter has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense.
In Florida, most burglary cases must be prosecuted within three or four years from when the offense was committed. However, the statute of limitations may not apply if the offender’s identity is determined using DNA evidence. This means that an offender could potentially face charges for a burglary committed decades ago or when the offender was a minor.
Penalties for Home Burglary in Florida
In Florida, all burglaries are considered felonies. Depending on the specific details of the offense, you could be charged with a:
- Third-degree felony. You may be charged with a third-degree burglary if you were unarmed, the burglarized property was unoccupied, or the offense did not involve assault or battery. Possession of burglary tools (such as lock picks) may also result in a third-degree burglary charge. If convicted, you could be ordered to serve a prison sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
- Second-degree felony. A second-degree felony charge is reserved for burglaries committed with the intent to steal a controlled substance or unarmed burglary of an occupied property. Conviction may result in a maximum of 15 years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.
- First-degree felony. Armed burglary, burglary involving assault or battery on a victim, or burglary resulting in property damage over $1,000 are all considered first-degree felonies. First-degree burglary is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Potential Defenses for Burglary Crimes
The harsh consequences of felony offenses make it imperative to create a customized defense strategy based on the specifics of your case. For example, we may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed by showing that you:
- Had permission to be on the premises. One owner may have invited you into the dwelling without the other’s knowledge.
- Had permission to remain on the premises. You may have been led to believe that you had permission to stay the night inside the dwelling.
- Had no intent to commit a crime. Even if you were in the dwelling without permission, the prosecution might lack sufficient evidence to prove your intent to commit a felony.
- Were in a public space. You cannot commit burglary on premises open to the public at the time of the offense.
- Were not in a dwelling. There may have been mistaken identity, or you were present on premises that do not meet Florida’s definition of dwelling.
- Did not commit assault or battery. The prosecution may not have enough evidence to prove that you committed violence against the home inhabitants.
- Did not cause any damage. There may not be sufficient evidence showing that your actions caused damage to the dwelling.
The best way to get a complete picture of your options is to speak with the criminal defense team at Flaherty and Merrifield. We offer our clients free consultations and convenient payment plans, ensuring that justice is accessible to everyone. Call (850) 403-6835 today or fill out our contact form to learn more.
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