Understanding Burglary

The common law definition of burglary is breaking and entering the dwelling of another at night with the intent to commit a felony. By that definition, burglary is a very specific act. However, burglary is now defined by statute and includes a much broader range of conduct.

Statutory Definition

Under Florida law, there are actually two statutory definitions of burglary. For offenses committed before July 1, 2001, burglary is “entering or remaining in 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 or remain.”

The terms “dwelling,” “structure,” and “conveyance” are defined by §810.011. A dwelling is any building with a roof over it designed to be occupied by people staying there at night. A structure is a building of any kind with a roof over it. A conveyance is “any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.”

The definition for burglary for offenses committed after July 1, 2001 contains an additional provision to the definition of burglary committed before July 1, 2001. Burglary is committed, regardless of a licensed or invited entry, if the defendant remained in the dwelling, structure, or conveyance:

  1. Surreptitiously (unauthorized or by stealth), with the intent to commit an offense therein;
  2. After permission had been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense therein; or
  3. To commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony.

A forcible felony is defined by §776.08 and includes many offenses, such as murder, arson, and kidnapping.

Potential Penalties

The penalties for burglary are wide-ranging and dependent upon a number of factors. A burglary is a first degree felony, punishable by a maximum of life in prison if, during the burglary, the offender assaults or batters any person or is or becomes armed with explosives or a dangerous weapon. Burglary is also a first degree felony punishable by life, if the offender:

  • Enters a dwelling or structure, and:
    • Uses a motor vehicle (other than to get away) to assist in the burglary and damages the dwelling or structure; or
    • Causes damages to either the dwelling or structure, or to property in the dwelling or structure in excess of $1,000.

In most cases where the offender does not commit assault or battery, and is not armed, the burglary will be a second degree felony. However, if the burglary is committed in a county where a state of the emergency has been declared, and the burglary is aided by the conditions that led to the emergency, the offense will be a first degree felony.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

Burglary is considered a serious offense and the punishments for conviction are severe. If you have been charged with burglary, you need to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The south Florida criminal defense attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. have the experience and expertise required to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact us today with any questions you may have.