Burglary Defense Attorney in Phoenix
Are you facing a burglary charge? In Arizona, burglary is a felony, and the potential sentence can be harsh. At The Feldman Law Firm, we understand these charges, and how best to defend against them for our clients. Call us for a free consultation.
What is Burglary in Arizona?
When people think of burglary, most consider it a theft charge. In fact, theft is not an element of the charge, and burglary is not classified under Title 13 of the Arizona Criminal Code as a theft offense. It is grouped with criminal trespass, a crime that has more to do with unlawful entry into buildings and other structures than with what is done by a defendant within that structure.
Not all burglary charges are the same. In Arizona, there are several different classes of burglary:
- Third degree burglary. If you enter a non-residential structure or a fenced yard (commercial or residential), or unlawfully remain there, intending to commit theft or any other felony, you can be charged with third degree burglary, a class 4 felony.
- Second degree burglary. If you enter residential structure, or unlawfully remain there, intending to commit theft or any other felony, you can be charged with second degree burglary, a class 3 felony.
- First degree burglary. If you enter residential or non-residential structure, or unlawfully remain there, and in the course of committing theft or any felony, you or an accomplice is in possession of explosives, a deadly instrument or a deadly weapon, you can be charged with first degree burglary. First degree burglary is a class 3 felony if the structure is non-residential or a fenced yard. It is a class 2 felony if it is a residential structure.
As the definitions show, theft is not a necessary element of a burglary offense. The essence of the statute is unlawful entry with intent to commit a crime.
Call or email us today for a free consultation.
The Difference between Burglary and Shoplifting
Shoplifting, unlike burglary, does not require that you enter a structure with the intent to commit theft or a felony. Shoplifting is simply knowingly obtaining possession of goods in a retail store, and intending to deprive the owner of possession, by:
- Concealing the goods.
- Removing the goods without paying.
- Charging the goods to a person without his or her consent.
While there is some overlap between the two offenses, burglary – a felony – is treated more harshly than shoplifting. A first offense for shoplifting a relatively inexpensive item, for example, is a misdemeanor.
Crimes Related to Burglary
There are other crimes, in addition to shoplifting and theft offenses, that are related to burglary:
- Criminal trespass in the third degree. If you enter (or remain unlawfully on) property after being requested to leave by the owner, manager or by law enforcement you may be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor.
- Criminal trespass in the second degree. Criminal trespass in a non-residential structure or fenced commercial yard is a class 2 misdemeanor.
- Criminal trespass in the first degree. This includes entry into (or unlawfully remaining in) a residential structure or residential fenced yard. It also covers other acts, among them unlawful entry on property coupled with defacing religious symbols or property. It is a class 1 misdemeanor.
- Possession of burglary tools. This offense generally involves possession of any tool(s) commonly used for burglary with intent to use the tool to commit burglary. This is a class 6 felony.
While these offenses bear some relation to burglary, they are treated much more leniently, and for a logical reason. Criminal trespass does not include the element of intent to commit theft or a felony. And entry onto or into someone’s property is not an element of possession of burglary tools.
Defending Burglary Charges
While all burglary charges require that you enter or remain unlawfully in or on property, the essence of the offense is intent to commit theft or any felony. These cases can be defended on a number of grounds, including the issue of intent.
The element of intent to commit a crime, which consists of your state of mind at the time you entered (or remained) in or on the property, is required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. While surrounding circumstances can be used by the prosecution to attempt to demonstrate that state of mind, other explanations often provide alternative conclusions, at least to the extent necessary to establish reasonable doubt in the mind of a juror.
Additional defenses can also be developed, depending upon the facts of your case.
Burglary Defense Lawyer in Phoenix, AZ
Burglary is an offense that is often confused with theft and other crimes. In some cases, in order to bring more pressure on a defendant, the prosecution will take a simple shoplifting case and charge the defendant with burglary.
At The Feldman Law Firm, we understand the tactics of the prosecutors, and we also know how to build an aggressive and effective defense against a charge of burglary. Contact us to discuss your case and find out what we can do for you. Your initial consultation is free.