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Burglary of a Structure Attorneys in Orlando, FL

Burglary of a Structure in Orlando, Florida: Key Insights from an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

What is Burglary of a Structure?

Being charged with Burglary of a Structure in Orlando can be a terrifying experience, given the gravity of this criminal offense as per Florida Statutes § 810.02. It is essential for anyone facing such charges to have a clear understanding of what the statute entails.

In simple terms, Burglary of a Structure refers to the unauthorized entry or remaining in a structure—a term that the law defines broadly. A structure can be any form of building, whether it’s a house, a commercial establishment, or even a temporary setup like a tent, as long as it has a roof over it. The statute also includes the ground and outbuildings that are immediately surrounding the main building.

But what sets Burglary of a Structure apart from mere trespassing is intent. According to the law, you must have the intent to commit an offense once you’re inside. This could range from theft to assault or any other criminal activity. The premises being open to the public, or you having a license or invitation to enter or remain, serve as exceptions to this rule.

For example, if you walk into a store during its operating hours and shoplift, you are committing theft but not Burglary of a Structure because the premises are open to the public. However, if you break into the same store after hours with the intent to steal, then you are likely to be charged with Burglary of a Structure.

Understanding these nuances is crucial for anyone looking to effectively fight a charge of Burglary of a Structure. The state must prove not just that you entered a structure but that you did so with the specific intent to commit another offense. Because of these complexities, it becomes even more essential to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney like those at Leppard Law to safeguard your legal interests.

Key Elements of Burglary of a Structure in Florida

Understanding the elements that constitute a Burglary of a Structure charge is crucial for your defense. Under Section 810.02 of the Florida Statutes, the prosecution has a rigorous burden of proof. They must establish several elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction for Burglary of a Structure. These elements can be broken down into specific categories for better comprehension:

1. Entrance into a Structure

The prosecution must demonstrate that you knowingly entered into a “structure.” It’s essential to understand that in legal parlance, “structure” includes not only houses and commercial buildings but also any other closed space, like a tent or a storage unit, that has a roof over it.

Sub-elements:

  • Unauthorized Entry: The entry must be unauthorized; you must not have permission to enter.
  • Roofed Building: It should be a roofed construction, including temporary or permanent establishments.

2. Intent to Commit Another Offense Inside

Simply entering a structure is not enough for a Burglary of a Structure conviction. The prosecution needs to prove that at the time of the entrance, you had the intent to commit another offense inside. This could range from theft, assault, fraud, or any other crime as specified by Florida law.

Sub-elements:

  • Concurrent Intent: The intent must exist at the same time as the entrance or remaining.
  • Specific Crime: The crime you intend to commit should be specific and identifiable.

3. Structure Open to Public or Permission to Enter

If the structure is open to the public, such as a retail store during its operating hours, you cannot be convicted of Burglary of a Structure solely based on your entrance. Similarly, if you have explicit permission to enter, that negates the first element necessary for conviction.

Sub-elements:

  • Public Access: Is the structure open to the general public at the time of the entrance?
  • License or Invitation: Did you have explicit permission from a person with authority to be there?

4. Remaining in a Structure Surreptitiously or After Permission was Withdrawn

This element addresses scenarios where a person was initially allowed to enter but overstayed their welcome with the intent to commit another offense. For example, staying inside a store after closing hours to commit theft would fall under this category.

Sub-elements:

  • Time Overstay: Did you stay beyond the time you were permitted?
  • Withdrawal of Permission: Was permission to remain explicitly revoked?

5. Remaining to Commit or Attempt to Commit a Forcible Felony

In certain cases, you might be initially granted access to a structure but then develop the intent to commit a forcible felony like assault or robbery. In such instances, the crime elevates to Burglary of a Structure.

Sub-elements:

  • Development of Intent: Did you develop the intent after initially being allowed inside?
  • Forcible Felony: Was the intended felony of a violent nature that involves force or intimidation?

Understanding these elements and their corresponding sub-elements will be instrumental in your defense. Each element is an opportunity for the defense to counter the prosecution’s narrative, thereby weakening their case and increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.

With these complexities in mind, seeking advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Leppard Law becomes indispensable in formulating a robust defense strategy.

Penalties for Burglary of a Structure in Florida

Facing a charge of Burglary of a Structure in Florida is a serious matter, and understanding the different types of penalties you could face is paramount. The penalties differ based on the severity of the crime and any aggravating circumstances. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

Burglary of an Unoccupied Structure

Felony Degree: Third-degree felony

Maximum Penalty: Up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine

Additional Insight:
  • Severity Level: This charge carries a severity level of 4 (or 22 points) under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.
  • Mandatory Minimum: Given that there are no aggravating circumstances like prior criminal records or causing injury to a victim, the judge isn’t mandated to enforce any minimum prison time. However, they have the discretion to sentence up to the maximum penalty if the circumstances warrant it.

Burglary of an Occupied Structure

Felony Degree: Second-degree felony

Maximum Penalty: Up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine

Additional Insight:
  • Severity Level: This charge is more severe with a level of 7 (or 56 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code.
  • Mandatory Minimum: If there are no aggravating circumstances, the minimum permissible sentence is 21 months in prison. The judge can only deviate from this minimum if there are special circumstances, known legally as a “downward departure.”

Enhanced Burglary of a Structure

Felony Degree: First-degree felony

Maximum Penalty: Up to 30 years of prison or probation and a $10,000 fine

Specific Conditions for Enhanced Charges:
  • Assault or battery on any person during the burglary
  • Becoming armed with a dangerous weapon or explosives
  • Using a motor vehicle during the burglary, resulting in damage
  • Causing damage exceeding $1,000 to the dwelling or property
Additional Insight:
  • Severity Level: This is the most serious form, carrying a severity level of 8 (or 74 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code.
  • Mandatory Minimum: Assuming there are no additional aggravating circumstances, the minimum permissible sentence is 34.5 months in prison.

Type of Burglary Felony Degree Maximum Penalty
Burglary of an Unoccupied Structure Third-degree felony Up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine The charge carries a severity level of 4 (or 22 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances (such as prior criminal convictions or victim injuries), there is no minimum mandatory sentence (which is required only when you score more than 44 points). This means that even though the judge can sentence you up to the maximum prison time, the judge is not required to order any amount of prison time.
Burglary of an Occupied Structure Second-degree felony Up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine The charge carries a severity level of 7 (or 56 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances (such as prior criminal convictions), this translates to a minimum permissible sentence of 21 months in prison. The judge cannot impose a lesser sentence unless special circumstances exist for what is called a downward departure from the minimum sentence.
Enhanced Burglary of a Structure First-degree felony Up to 30 years of prison or probation and a $10,000 fine If you did any of the following during the burglary: Made an assault or battery upon any person;
Entered or became armed with a dangerous weapon or explosives; Used a motor vehicle to assist in the burglary and damaged the dwelling or property inside; OR Caused more than $1,000 of damage to the dwelling or property inside.
The charge carries a severity level of 8 (or 74 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances, this translates to a minimum permissible sentence of 34.5 months in prison.

Defending a Charge of Burglary of a Structure in Florida

There are several legal strategies and defenses that can be applied if you’re facing a charge of Burglary of a Structure in Florida. It’s crucial to remember that every case is unique and requires a personalized approach based on the specific circumstances and available evidence.

Lack of Intent to Commit a Crime

The crime of burglary is predicated on the intent to commit an offence within a structure once inside. This means the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to commit a crime upon entry. Your defense attorney at Leppard Law can challenge this element by arguing that there’s insufficient proof of criminal intent. It could be shown, for example, that you entered the structure with a legitimate reason unrelated to committing a crime. Note that while this defense might lessen the charges to Trespass in a Structure or Conveyance, it could potentially exonerate you from a burglary charge.

If you had been given consent to enter or remain in the property by an authorized person, it’s not considered burglary. This could be the case even if another individual refuses consent. If your attorney can show that a legal resident or owner of the structure gave you permission to enter or stay, the charges could be dropped. However, it’s important to note that if you’re accused of taking anything from the property, even with consent, you might face other charges like theft or robbery.

Mistake of Fact

A defense of “mistake of fact” can be applied if you can demonstrate that you genuinely believed the structure was open to the public or that you were licensed or invited to enter. For example, if you thought a store was open due to signage or lighting, your attorney might argue that you didn’t knowingly enter a closed structure. This defense focuses on the lack of criminal intent and can be effective in the right circumstances.

Motion to Suppress

In certain situations, your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress, which seeks to exclude evidence obtained through improper or unconstitutional methods. If law enforcement violated your rights during the investigation, for instance by conducting an unlawful search or seizure, the evidence collected might be deemed inadmissible. This could potentially weaken the prosecution’s case significantly, leading to reduced charges or even dismissal.

Alibi Defense

An alibi defense can be used to argue that you were somewhere else at the time the alleged crime occurred. For this defense to be effective, your attorney must provide strong supporting evidence such as witness testimonies, video footage, GPS data, or credit card transactions. If your alibi can be proven, it can completely exonerate you from the charges.

Other Potential Defenses

Every case of burglary is unique and will require different approaches and defenses. Here are some additional defense strategies that your attorney at Leppard Law might consider based on the specifics of your case:

Challenging the Evidence

The prosecution’s case against you may heavily rely on the quality and reliability of their evidence. Our legal team can closely examine this evidence for any inconsistencies or inaccuracies that could undermine the prosecution’s case. This could involve questioning the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, challenging the admissibility of certain evidence, or highlighting procedural errors in evidence collection.

Crime Scene Contamination

If the crime scene was not appropriately secured or if the evidence was improperly handled, the crime scene could be contaminated, thereby affecting the reliability of the evidence. In such cases, your defense attorney can argue that the contaminated evidence should be excluded from the case.

Questioning the Identification Process

Often, cases of burglary rely on eyewitness identification, which can sometimes be unreliable. The Leppard Law defense team can evaluate the conditions under which the identification process took place and challenge its validity if it appears that improper or suggestive methods were used.

Exposing Police Misconduct

Instances of police misconduct, such as coercive interrogation, fabrication of evidence, or failure to read you your rights, can be leveraged to challenge the prosecution’s case. If misconduct is proven, it could lead to a reduction or dismissal of the charges.

These strategies, along with the ones previously mentioned, illustrate the depth of defense available when facing a burglary charge. Remember, the earlier you have a defense attorney involved, the better chance you have at crafting a robust defense. Contact the experienced team at Leppard Law for a free consultation at any time, as we are available 24/7 to take your call.

Frequently Asked Questions

 How is burglary different from robbery in Florida?

While both burglary and robbery are crimes against property, they are differentiated by their circumstances. Robbery involves the use of force or threat to obtain property from another person’s immediate possession. On the other hand, burglary involves unauthorized entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime inside, regardless of whether there’s personal confrontation or not.

Can law enforcement arrest me for burglary based on fingerprints alone?

While fingerprints can contribute to evidence against you, it’s generally not enough to lead to a conviction in isolation. There would need to be additional compelling evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, or evidence of intent to commit a crime within the structure.

Can the charges be reduced from burglary to trespassing?

Yes, in some instances it may be possible to have charges reduced from burglary to trespassing, especially if there’s insufficient evidence to prove the intent to commit a crime inside the structure. This would depend heavily on the specifics of your case and would require an effective legal defense strategy.

What should I do if I’m falsely accused of burglary?

If you are falsely accused of burglary, it’s crucial that you do not provide any statements to law enforcement without an attorney present. Exercise your right to remain silent and seek legal representation immediately to protect your rights and build your defense.

How can previous criminal convictions affect my burglary charges?

Previous criminal convictions, especially those related to theft or burglary, can potentially enhance your charges and penalties for a new burglary offense in Florida. It can also affect your scoring under the Criminal Punishment Code, potentially leading to a higher minimum permissible sentence. In these circumstances, the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to navigate through your case effectively.

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