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How can a lawyer defend against burglary charges?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm


Defending Against Burglary Charges – A Lawyer’s Guide

Being charged with burglary can be scary. As a lawyer, I wanna help people accused of burglary understand their options and build the strongest defense. This article explains the common defenses I use to fight burglary charges and get charges reduced or dismissed.

What is Burglary?

Burglary is illegally entering a building to commit a crime. To convict someone of burglary, the prosecution must prove:

  • The defendant entered a building or structure,
  • The defendant entered with intent to commit a crime inside (like theft, assault, etc.),
  • The entry was unlawful or unprivileged.

If the prosecution can’t prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges should fail. As a defense lawyer, I look for ways to create doubt around each part of the crime.

Fighting the “Intent” Element

A key part of burglary is proving the defendant intended to commit a crime after entering the building. As a lawyer, I look for facts showing my client had no criminal intent.

For example, if my client accidentally entered the wrong home because they were drunk or confused, that could negate intent. Or if they entered to get warm or find a bathroom, not to steal. Without intent, there’s no burglary.

I also review the timing of events. If my client entered and left without doing anything criminal inside, that helps fight intent. Or if they entered legally but decided to commit a crime after. Timing matters.

Bottom line – I dig deep into my client’s actions and state of mind to show they never planned to commit a crime inside.

Challenging the “Entry” Element

Another defense strategy is disputing whether the defendant actually “entered” the building. For example, if they only opened an unlocked door but didn’t go inside, that may not qualify as entry under the law.

I had a case where my client reached into a window to grab his keys off a table. We argued that briefly reaching inside isn’t the same as full-on “entry.” The charges got dismissed.

If my client had permission to enter, like an open house or party, that can also defeat the entry element. Overall, I analyze the specifics of how and when they entered to fight this part of burglary.

Fighting “Unlawful Entry”

In some cases, I argue the entry itself was lawful, even if a crime got committed inside. For example, if my client was a contractor working in the building. Or had a key as an employee. Or even lived there with their partner.

Showing a legal right, reason or permission to enter the property fights the “unlawful entry” part of burglary. I gather evidence about why my client was there and their relationship to the location.

Using Intoxication as a Defense

Being extremely drunk or high on drugs can be a defense to burglary in some cases. If my client was so wasted they didn’t know what they were doing, I can argue they lacked criminal intent.

This defense has risks though. The prosecution might argue it shows recklessness. But in the right cases, intoxication helps fight intent and unlawful entry.

Mistake of Fact Defense

Sometimes people enter places by mistake – the wrong house, wrong room, wrong building. If my client had an honest but mistaken belief they could legally enter, that can defeat criminal intent.

I had a client charged with entering his ex-girlfriend’s apartment to take his stuff. But he thought the lease was still in his name. That mistake of fact helped get charges dropped.

Using Alibis to Fight Burglary

A solid alibi that puts my client somewhere else when the crime occurred can completely beat a burglary charge. I build timelines and get witness statements showing it wasn’t physically possible for them to enter the building.

Video surveillance, cell phone records, receipts and other evidence also help prove alibis. Alibis create that necessary reasonable doubt.

Negotiating Lesser Charges

Sometimes I can’t beat the top burglary charge, but I can negotiate it down to lesser offenses like trespassing or disorderly conduct. This avoids the most serious penalties.

Lesser charges are still a win. Any reduction in what my client is facing is progress. I’ve had cases plead down from first-degree burglary to basic trespassing.

Seeking Diversion Programs

For defendants with little or no criminal history, I often seek special diversion programs as an alternative to prosecution. These involve classes, community service, counseling, etc. Once completed, the charges get dismissed.

Diversion keeps their record clean while teaching positive lessons. It’s a great option for first-time and low-level offenders.

Getting Charges Dismissed

When the evidence is weak, I file motions asking the judge to dismiss the charges. For example, if the entry was justified, incidental, or the intent unclear. I highlight every flaw in the prosecution’s case.

I’ve gotten many burglary cases tossed out when the facts just didn’t add up. Dismissal avoids a conviction and any penalties for my client.

Taking Cases to Trial

If plea negotiations fail, we take the case to trial. I’ve defended burglary charges at jury trial by raising doubts about intent, entry, lack of permission – anything I can leverage.

At trial, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. If I can create some doubt in jurors’ minds, my client gets acquitted. Of course, trial is risky if we lose. But sometimes it’s our best option.

The Importance of an Attorney

Fighting burglary charges takes an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Prosecutors almost always overcharge these cases initially. An attorney can get charges reduced or dismissed through negotiation or at trial.

Don’t go it alone against the government. Hire a lawyer to defend your rights, freedom and reputation.

If you or a loved one is charged with burglary, I’m here to help. Call me anytime to discuss your defense strategy in a free consultation.


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