Have you Been Charged with Burglary in Georgia?
Lawson and Berry and their team of Burglary Lawyers can help if you or a loved one has been charged with burglary. A burglary charge is not the same as a burglary conviction, so it is vital to your case to get a lawyer that is knowledgeable in the field of burglary.
Georgia Law on Burglary
In Georgia, Burglary is defined as the breaking and entering into any structure with the intent to commit a felony therein. You must intend to commit an underlying offense, which can be a crime against property, such as theft; or a crime against a person, such as assault. Like other Georgia criminal charges, burglary can be charged in different degrees according to the severity of the crime. O.C.G.A. §16-7-1.
Traditionally, burglary was defined as the breaking and entering into any dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony therein. However, many states have amended their statutes by taking out the “at night” portion and the “dwelling” portion. Now, you can be convicted of burglary for breaking into a building, vehicle, or house no matter what time of day.
Degrees of Burglary
You commit First Degree Burglary if you enter or remain within an occupied, unoccupied, or vacant dwelling house of another or any building, railroad car, watercraft, aircraft, or other such structure for use as the dwelling of another without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein. O.C.G.A. §16-7-1. A person found guilty of burglary in the first degree will be convicted of a felony and will be punished by a prison sentence of one to twenty years. If you are convicted of burglary in the first-degree burglary a second time, you will be found guilty of a felony and will be punished by a prison sentence for two to twenty years. For a third or subsequent conviction of burglary, you will be guilty of a felony and will face a prison term for no less than five and no more than twenty-five years.
You commit Second Degree Burglary when you enter or remain in an occupied, unoccupied, or vacant building, structure, vehicle, railroad car, watercraft, or aircraft without authority and with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein. The punishment if found guilty of second-degree burglary is a prison sentence for a period from one to eight years.
Essentially the difference between First and Second Degree Burglary is whether or not the structure was intended to be a dwelling or not. If the structure is, in fact, a home, then you have committed first degree. If not a dwelling, then second degree. Our Georgia Burglary Attorneys can help you understand the differences and what charges you could be facing.
Breaking and Entering
To be convicted of burglary, you must enter into a building, car, or house without permission. The building can be occupied, unoccupied, or vacant. Building can include going into a portion of a store or house that is closed to the public, such as an employee break room.
Also, you can be convicted of burglary even if you obtained permission to enter into a house through fraud, deceit or false pretenses. For example, the Georgia Supreme Court found a man who posed as a potential homebuyer to get inside a house and steal from the home guilty of burglary. Even though he had permission to enter the home, that permission was obtained by fraud and the Court decided that his entry was unauthorized. State v. Newton, 294 Ga. 767 (2014).
Our Burglary Lawyers in Georgia are very knowledgeable and can help determine whether you truly committed a crime.
Intent to Commit a Crime Within
Many people are under the misconception that the only crime that can be associated with burglary is stealing. However, this is not true. You could be convicted of burglary if you had the intention of kidnapping, assault, or rape. If you broke into and entered a house with the intent to commit one of those felonies, you would still be convicted of burglary. You do not have to take any personal property items to be convicted of burglary. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial to your case to have one of our Georgia Burglary Attorneys helping you with your case.
What Must be Proven to be Convicted
To convict you of burglary, the District Attorney must be able to prove that you had the intent to commit a crime when you broke into and entered the place. Burglary requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you broke and entered with the intent to commit a felony inside. The defendant is not guilty of burglary if he decided to commit a crime once he was already on the property but he will be guilty of theft or another crime.
Penalty for Burglary in Georgia
Burglary is a serious crime and is one that is typically charged as a felony. However, some states do allow for it to be a misdemeanor charge, but Georgia does not permit it. A burglary charge can come with several possible penalties, and that is why it is important to have a Georgia Burglary Attorney to help you know your options. When determining a sentence for a defendant, the Court has the discretion to consider many factors. They can consider what kind of property you trespassed on (whether it was a house or an abandoned workshop), whether you had a weapon on you, the time of day, and whether you have been convicted of burglary previously. They may also consider whether you have any witness testimony supporting your character or possibly your intentions in committing burglary.
Georgia Courts prefer to impose prison sentences over any other type of penalty. If this is your first time being charged with burglary and you are convicted, it will be charged as a felony and you could be imprisoned for a period anywhere in between 1 to 20 years.
If you have already been convicted of burglary, then you could be imprisoned for a period between of 2 to 20 years.
If you have been convicted of burglary twice already, then you will face a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years.
Some states, including Georgia, have been employing alternative methods to try to reform burglary offenders instead of punishing them in hopes of reducing crime. Some of these alternative sentencing options can include partial sentencing where you would be on a work release program or a weekend sentencing program. Another option could be house arrest.
There is also a possibility that you could receive probation for your case. A judge could decide to give you a probation sentence instead of a prison sentence or could add probation to your prison term. If you are sentenced to probation, you have to comply with all of the conditions of your probation or you risk having to serve the original jail or prison sentence. Some things that might be a part of your probation are submitting to drug tests, reporting to a probation officer, or submitting to home searches.
Having a Georgia Burglary Attorney could help you get your sentence reduced to a less severe one. Your Lawyer will argue every possible defense available to you in efforts to get your burglary charged lowered to a lesser offense like theft or trespassing or to get your prison sentence reduced. It is crucial to your case to hire someone knowledgeable in the burglary field such as one of our Georgia Attorneys.
Burglary as Seen Through Case Law in Georgia
In 2005, a man was convicted of burglary for stealing items from two garages. Davis v. State, 275 Ga. App. 174. The man would pull up to open garages of homes and take stuff out of the garages. When the homeowner's looked in their garages, they noticed that some tools had gone missing. The same tools were pawned later that afternoon, and the man arrested soon after. The Court convicted the man of two counts of burglary. Even though he never entered into a house and the garage was open, therefore he did not physically have to break in and enter, the Court still found him guilty of burglary. Their reasoning was that he did not have permission to come into the garage, and he entered with the intent to steal. Therefore, he was found guilty.
Another Court found a defendant guilty of burglary in Floyd v. State, 207 Ga. App. 275, (1993). The Defendant, Floyd, was charged with burglary after breaking into the garden center of a Wal-Mart. Floyd argued that he was not guilty because the garden center was not a building within the meaning of the burglary statute. He claimed it was simply a fenced in area and not a building. The Court looked at the definition of burglary and specifically looked at what constituted a building under the statute. They looked at whether it needed four walls and a roof and whether it had to be connected to a larger building. In this case, the Court found that the garden center was part of the main building. Even though it did not have a roof and was fenced in instead of having walls, it was enclosed and secured as a room and the Court said that the use of a fence instead of a wall to enclose the garden center made it no less a part of the main Wal-Mart building. The garden center could be reached from the main building and once the store was closed no member of the public was allowed to be there. Therefore, Floyd was found guilty of burglary.
Defenses to a Burglary Charge
To counter a charge of burglary, you will need a strong defense. There are several options available to you that your Georgia Burglary Attorney could use.
Innocence: The most basic defense is actual innocence. An innocence argument involves your Georgia Burglary Attorney convincing the court that you did not commit the act or acts in question. The prosecution bears the burden of proving you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, so to defeat a burglary charge your lawyer must create plausible doubt in the minds of the jury as to whether the prosecutions' evidence truly demonstrates that you committed the crime. Your Attorney can create doubt by presenting an alibi or creating doubt as to the scientific reliability of a forensic technique used to obtain the charge.
Consent to Enter Property: Another defense is to negate one or more of the elements needed to satisfy the burglary charge. Concerning the first element, breaking and entering, a defense that you had consent from the homeowner to enter the property could help obtain an acquittal. For example, if a man had permission from the owner to enter into the house and then he decided to steal something, he would not be guilty of burglary because he did not satisfy the breaking and entering element. He would be guilty of theft but not burglary. Another example, if a house is for sale and they are conducting an "open house", and you go in and steal something, you would not be guilty of burglary because it was open to the public. However, you would be guilty of theft.
Intent: Your Georgia Burglary Attorney could use intent as one of the possible defenses for your case. Because intent to commit a felony in the structure is an element of burglary, your Lawyer could use the argument that you had a purpose of being on the property and then decided to commit a crime once inside. Without having the intent to commit a crime before entering a structure, you cannot be found guilty of burglary. For example, if you attended a party and once inside the home realize that you would like to steal a vase, and then you take it, you would not be convicted of burglary. You could be found guilty of theft but not burglary because you did not have any intent to steal when you entered the home, and you had permission to enter.
Breaking but no Entering onto Property: Breaking a window of a door and reaching inside to attempt to open the door does not constitute an entry for the purposes of satisfying a burglary conviction and will only sustain a conviction for criminal attempt to commit burglary. Hampton v. State, 145 Ga. App. 244, (1978).
Voluntary Intoxication: Also, burglary is a specific intent crime, which means that a person must have the intent to commit the crime. Voluntary intoxication could act as a defense to the degree that it prevented you from forming the required intent. However, Georgia does not accept this defense.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence: One of the arguments your Georgia Burglary Attorney can make is that the Prosecutor does not have enough evidence to convict you of the crime.
Although all of these are defenses to burglary, you may not have dodged the bullet completely. You may still be facing charges commonly associated with burglary such as theft or trespass to property.
What does not Constitute a Defense for Burglary
It was an unoccupied building, so technically there was no breaking or entering: Sometimes a defendant will attempt to argue that since the building was vacant, there was not a breaking and entering. However, this defense will not hold up in court as case law has held that even entering a house under construction qualifies as a building and a defendant could still be convicted of burglary. Smith v. State, 226 Ga App. 9 (1957).
I didn't even steal anything: Even though you may not have stolen anything, you could still be convicted of burglary. According to Johnson v. Jackson, it is not necessary that the defendant actually steal anything. 140 Ga. App. 252, (1976). It is enough if they enter without authority and with intent to commit theft.
The door was open, so I didn't have to break in: Georgia does not require that there is forced entry. It is simply sufficient if you enter a building without authority or permission. Brown v. State, 242 Ga. Ap. 858, (2000).
I used to live there: Even if you used to live in an apartment or house and were kicked out, you do not have authority to go back to the house and enter it. Bilow v. State, 279 Ga. App. 509, (2006).
Georgia Burglary Lawyers will help you understand your options and will assist you with your case. To schedule a free consultation with Lawson and Berry, contact our offices today. Our Attorneys are dedicated to being accessible to their clients—days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on their behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all your options and the good and bad of each. Every Burglary case is unique, and Georgia Burglary Attorneys will work with you to formulate the best possible defense for your situation. They will advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Contact us today for your free case evaluation. Your future is at stake, so do not sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.