Burglary is a crime that is defined in New York’s Penal Law (Article 140). Punishment for burglary will depend on the tier associated with the crime. The presiding judge will make a ruling depending on whether you are accused of burglary in the first, second, or third degree. Let us examine the different degrees of the crime of burglary, the associated penalties, other factors affecting a burglary sentence, and the defenses that one can use.
Burglary in the 3rd Degree
Third degree burglary is categorized as a felony. The minimum sentence you stand to get is between 1-3 years in jail, or a maximum sentence of between 2.3-7 years in jail. A crime is classified as a burglary in the third degree when a person enters a building, not a personal residence, with the intention of committing a crime.
Burglary in the 2nd Degree
Second degree burglary is categorized as a Class C “violent” felony. The minimum punishment you stand to get for this crime is 3.5 years in jail, or a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.
A crime is classified as a burglary in the second degree when you knowingly enter the victim’s home and stay there unlawfully with the intention of committing a crime within. A second degree burglary also occurs when:
Someone is hurt while you are committing a burglary in a building
· You commit a burglary in a building and either you or your accomplice has and displays a lethal weapon
Burglary in the 1st Degree
A first degree burglary is categorized as a Class B “violent” felony. The minimum sentence you stand to get for this crime is 5 years in jail or a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail. Burglary in the first degree is as serious as a charge of attempted murder.
A crime is classified as a burglary in the first degree when you are charged with committing a burglary in the victim’s home and in the act you either:
· Are armed with a lethal weapon
· Or, harm someone
· Or, possess a burglar’s tools
Possession of a Burglar’s Tools
The possession of a burglar’s tools is categorized as a Class A “misdemeanor”. This crime may be charged separately, or may be convicted with other offenses like assault, possession of a weapon, possession of stolen property, or grand larceny.
The minimum sentence you stand to get for possession of burglar’s tools is any punishment that will keep you from going to jail, or a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.
A crime is classified as the possession of burglar’s tools if you are in possession of any tool or instrument used for burglary, and the circumstances imply your intention of using the tools illegally.
Other Factors Affecting Burglary Sentencing
Apart from determining the degree of a burglary before handing down a sentence, the judge will also take into account aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors are circumstances surrounding your case that make it more serious. For example, if you are a leader in a burglary, or you attack a vulnerable victim, like a person on a wheel chair, these are considered to be aggravating factors that may increase your sentence.
Mitigating factors are circumstances surrounding your case that cause the judge to reduce your sentence. For example, if you have no criminal record, or you are willing to plead guilty for an offense, these are considered to be mitigating factors that may reduce your sentence.
Defenses for Burglary
The three elements of burglary are:
· Unauthorized breaking and entering,
· Into someone’s home, or a building
· With the intention of committing a crime inside
One of the best defenses you can make against a burglary charge is to state that all elements to proof the offense have not been satisfied. Defenses based on the elements of burglary are known as affirmative defenses. They include:
· Unlawful Entry: This defense is used to prove that you were authorized to enter the building or home, and that your entry wasn’t illegal
· Intention of Committing a Crime: This defense is used to prove that you had no intention of committing a crime the moment you entered into a building, or dwelling place
· The Subject of the Burglary is Neither a Home nor a Building: Burglary does not imply to open spaces or any place that is not an actual structure. This defense is used to prove that you never went inside a home or building with the intent of committing a crime within.
Other Defenses for Burglary
· Intoxication: To accuse someone of burglary, you need to prove the intention of committing a crime while inside the home or building. If you were drunk to the point that you could not form such intent, you can use this as a defense
· Actual Innocence: This defense is used to declare you actually did not commit the crime you are accused of.
· Coercion: This defense is used to prove that you were forced to commit burglary under the threat of death, physical injury, or harm.
Burglary is a crime that can lead to jail time depending on the degree of the crime. If you are accused of burglary, you should seek the services of an experienced Suffolk County criminal lawyer to fight the charges. The main charges for burglary are affirmative defenses, intoxication, actual innocence, and coercion.