People in Florida are generally aware that taking another individual’s property without permission is illegal, but they often lack an understanding of the precise acts an individual may be charged with for stealing or otherwise depriving a person of property. For example, many people think of burglary as involving theft, when in actuality, there is a substantial difference between theft and burglary in Florida. If you being investigated for or accused of committing a crime, it is smart to meet with a capable Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to evaluate your potential defenses.
What’s the Difference Between Theft and Burglary in Florida?
Pursuant to Florida law, burglary is the act of entering a building with the intent to commit a criminal act inside, unless the property is open to the public or the defendant was invited or is licensed to enter. Notwithstanding entrants that are invited or licensed, it also constitutes burglary to secretly remain in a building or stay after permission to remain has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit a crime, or to stay to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony. While burglary may involve theft, stealing property is not a statutory element of the offense.
A person that knowingly uses or obtains, or attempts to use or obtain someone else’s property with the intent to deprive the person of his or her property rights or benefits, or appropriate the property for his or her own use, commits theft. Such acts constitute theft regardless of whether the offender intends to temporarily or permanently take the property.
Classification of Theft and Burglary Offenses
Burglary is a felony of the first degree, punishable by up to life imprisonment, if during the course of committing the crime the defendant commits an assault and battery, is or becomes armed with a dangerous weapon or explosives, or uses a vehicle to assist in committing the offense and causes property damage to the building that exceeds $1,000.
In cases in which the offender does not commit an assault and battery and is not armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive, burglary may be a felony of the second or third-degree, depending on the type of building the defendant enters and whether anyone else was inside the property at the time the offense was committed. Penalties for felonies of the second degree can include up to fifteen years imprisonment and fines, while penalties for felonies of the third degree may be up to five years imprisonment and fines.
Many theft crimes are felonies of the first degree. For example, if the stolen property is worth more than $100,000, is a semitrailer that was used by a law enforcement officer, is cargo worth more than $50,000 that has entered the stream of commerce, theft is a felony of the first degree. Theft will also be charged as a felony of the first degree if the offender commits a grand theft and uses a vehicle to assist in committing the offense and causes damage to a building that exceeds $1,000. Most other theft crimes are charged as felonies of the second degree.
Meet with a Knowledgeable Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney
Burglary and theft are both offenses that can lead to significant penalties, including jail time. If you are accused of theft or any other crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a knowledgeable Clearwater criminal defense attorney who can develop a compelling case designed to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable outcome. You can contact Mr. Hanlon via the form online or by calling 727-897-5413 to set up a meeting.