Flaherty & Merrifield defends clients accused of burglary of a conveyance, burglary of a structure, and burglary of a dwelling in Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding areas. If you are being investigated or have been charged with burglary, it is vital that you protect yourself right away and follow these two very simple pieces of advice:

  1. Retain the best criminal defense attorney you can find.
  2. Do not agree to talk to the police without your attorney present.

Burglary is a very serious felony offense, and the prosecutors will be looking to put you in prison if you are convicted. However, if you follow the advice listed above, you greatly increase the odds of a successful outcome. Don't wait until it's too late to take control of your case and your future.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I am a burglary defense lawyer and have been defending clients throughout Northwest Florida since 2001. My partner Brandy Merrifield has worked with me since 2007. Criminal defense is our only area of practice, and we are ready to put our experience to work for you.

Understanding Florida Burglary Charges

Florida Statute 810.02 defines burglary as follows: "Entering into a conveyance, structure, or dwelling 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, or notwithstanding a licensed or invited entry, remaining in a structure, dwelling, or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein after permission to remain has been withdrawn."

There are three different types of burglary: Burglary of a Conveyance, Burglary of a Structure, and Burglary of a Dwelling. Here's what you need to know.

Burglary of a Conveyance

The most common kind of burglary of a conveyance case that we defend in Fort Walton Beach stems from kids breaking into cars. Most people, especially teenagers, have no idea how serious this is until they get arrested—or until a parent learns that their child has been arrested for a felony offense.

If your child was arrested for burglary of a conveyance, it's important to retain an attorney as soon as possible. The prosecutor has the discretion to either charge the case in juvenile court or adult court. We will do everything possible to make sure the case stays in juvenile court.

What Is a Conveyance?

Florida Statute 810.011 defines a conveyance as "any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle, trailer, or aircraft." There are three levels of burglary of a conveyance in the Sunshine State:

  1. Burglary of an Unoccupied Conveyance, a third-degree felony with a potential five-year prison sentence
  2. Burglary of an Occupied Conveyance, a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison
  3. Burglary of a Conveyance While Armed, a first-degree felony punishable by 30 years to life in prison

Defending a Burglary of a Conveyance Charge

If you are a young person with no prior criminal record and you have been accused of burglary of a conveyance, it is possible for you to get a second chance with a clean slate. We may be able to secure a referral to pretrial diversion. If you successfully complete this program, all charges will be dismissed.

We will also carefully review the elements of the offense along with the facts of your case to prepare for trial in case the prosecutor is not willing to be reasonable. Our number-one goal will be to give you a second chance and a fresh start.

Burglary of a Structure

A structure is defined by Florida Statute 810.011 as "a building of any kind, temporary or permanent, which has a roof over it, together with the curtilage thereof." Common examples are detached garages, yard buildings and sheds, and commercial buildings. There are two levels of burglary of a structure under Florida law:

  1. Burglary of an Unoccupied Structure, third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison
  2. Burglary of an Occupied Structure, a second-degree felony with a potential sentence of 15 years in prison

Defending a Burglary of a Structure Charge

With the right attorney and the right legal strategy, these cases can often be reduced to a misdemeanor. There is a fine line between burglary and misdemeanor trespass; the only difference is whether you had the intent to commit a crime when you entered the structure. If you had the intent, burglary is the appropriate charge. If not, we can make a strong argument to the prosecutor that the correct charge should be trespass.

Another option is to convince the prosecutor to send your case to pretrial diversion. This program guarantees a dismissal of your case if you complete the conditions.

Burglary of a Dwelling

Burglary of a dwelling is a very serious felony offense. It scores out to a mandatory prison sentence if you are convicted. If the police contact you about your involvement, it is very important that you tell them you will not talk to them without an attorney present. This is especially vital in burglary of a dwelling cases where the police don't know who committed the crime, but they suspect you. Don't do their job for them and don't talk to them without an attorney.

What Is a Dwelling?

Florida Statute 810.011 defines a dwelling as "a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, which has a roof over it and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, together with the curtilage thereof." Obviously, someone's home is a dwelling. Curtilage refers to the land immediately surrounding the dwelling, including any closely associated buildings and structures. The garage of a home can also be considered part of the dwelling if it's attached. There are two levels of burglary of a dwelling charges:

  1. Burglary of a Dwelling, unarmed, a second-degree felony with a potential 15-year prison sentence
  2. Burglary of a Dwelling, armed, a first-degree felony punishable by 30 years in prison

How We Defend Against Florida Burglary Charges

At Flaherty & Merrifield, we will prepare your defense along three different tracks at the same time:

  1. Pretrial Investigation and Motions. After reviewing the police reports, talking to all of the witnesses, and visiting the scene of the crime (especially if it's a dwelling or curtilage), we will look to see whether we can raise a defense on issues such as whether our client was a licensee or was invited, whether the area in question really was a part of the curtilage of a dwelling, or whether our client had the intent to commit an offense when they entered the conveyance, structure, or dwelling.
  2. Negotiation and Mitigation. We will prepare a full background of our client and put together a mitigation package before negotiating with the prosecutor. In the past, this approach has been very successful, especially with younger clients with no criminal record. In several of these cases, the result was pretrial diversion, a program that guarantees a dismissal of all charges upon successful completion. In other cases, the burglary charges were reduced to a lesser charge or a misdemeanor.
  3. Trial Preparation. We prepare every one of our felony cases for trial from day one. We do this because even though most cases do not go to trial, it puts you in the best possible negotiating position if the state knows we are ready and willing to fight the case in court.

Talk to Us About Your Florida Burglary Case to Find Out How We Can Help

You already know that you are facing very serious penalties, including a long time in prison and a permanent felony conviction on your record—and right now, you are probably stressed about what to do, who to hire, and how much it is going to cost. At Flaherty & Merrifield, we understand, and we're here to help.

If you've been charged with burglary of a conveyance, burglary of a structure, or burglary of a dwelling in the Fort Walton Beach area, call us at (850) 243-6097 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.