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How can you be charged with burglary when nothing is missing?

From childhood, you may remember cartoon characters wearing striped shirts, newsboy caps and black masks. They usually carried a large sack of stolen items on their backs and found comical ways to slip unseen into dark homes to steal what they wanted. Anyone seeing them would cry, "It's a burglar!" and call the police.

While the old cartoons show burglary as something slapstick and light, you may not feel like laughing if police have arrested you for burglary. Additionally, you may feel confused and have many questions, especially authorities have not accused you of stealing anything.

Elements of the crime

A misconception of burglary is that it is a crime that involves breaking into someone's home and stealing something from inside. However, this is only partially correct. Burglary is different from robbery. In fact, the following are the elements a prosecutor must prove to convict you of burglary:

  • That you broke into a structure without permission and entered it
  • That the building you broke into sheltered people, property or animals
  • That your intention when you entered the structure was to commit a crime, such as stealing, even if you did not follow through with the crime

It may not be as easy as you think to prove each element of burglary. For example, you must physically enter the property to satisfy the breaking-in element. Whether authorities believe you broke in by force or gained entry through some method of fraud, they must show that at least part of you, such as your hand or head, entered the building.

Proving intent to commit a crime

The prosecutor must demonstrate to the jury that you broke into an occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime separate from the burglary. This may be the most difficult to prove. Additionally, authorities must prove when you formed your intent to commit the crime. For example, if someone plans to commit a crime before breaking into a building, he or she may face a burglary charge of a more serious degree. Deciding to steal or vandalize after gaining entry may be a lesser burglary charge.

In Florida, burglary is a felony, so even a lesser charge may carry substantial penalties for a conviction. If you are facing burglary charges, you would be wise to protect your future by seeking legal representation before answering any questions from police or others.

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