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How is burglary defined in Florida?

For many people who are not law enforcement officials or attorneys, the term “burglary” invokes a mental image of a person breaking into a building and stealing something without getting caught. In other words, people may think of burglary as simply another term for larceny or theft.

While it is true that entering a building and stealing something is one possible form of burglary, there are other actions that can result in burglary charges. This post will provide some additional information on how Florida law defines burglary.

The overarching concept of burglary consists of two elements: first, entering into a dwelling, structure, or conveyance; and second, doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful activity. Both of these elements must be proven to convict someone on a burglary charge.

A common perception of burglary is that it involves an unpermitted entry, such as breaking into a home. However, the entry can also be authorized: for example, a person who enters a store and then hides there until after closing to commit a theft.

And although theft qualifies as an unlawful activity that can trigger a burglary charge, it is not the only unlawful act that can do so. The key consideration is intent. If one commits an assault after entering a structure without permission, but does not steal anything, that is still a burglary.

Impermissibly entering a car or a building intending to vandalize it but not to take anything is also burglary. But committing a crime in the same structure that does not include intent as an element -- such as a crime that is negligent -- does not rise to the level of a burglary.

The type of burglary -- first degree, or second or third -- can depend on factors such as where the alleged offense took place, whether someone else was inside the dwelling or structure and whether another criminal act occurred in the course of the burglary.

This post may give readers some insight into how complex even seemingly basic charges can be. There are numerous details that must be taken into account and various reasons that charges can be adjusted. People facing theft-related offenses, including burglary, may want to reach out for the help and guidance of an attorney familiar with the process of defending against charges to have them dismissed or reduced.

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