Criminal charges for burglary are extremely serious and tend to come with very harsh penalties, such as lengthy prison sentences. People often conflate burglary with robbery and may sue the terms interchangeably. However, burglary is a distinct criminal offense with unique elements that must be proven if you are to be convicted. Our Utah criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your burglary charges. Read on to learn more about how to fight a burglary charge in Utah from our skilled attorney at Overson Law, PLLC.
Definition of Burglary in Utah
The definition of burglary is a bit more complicated than people realize. To be convicted of burglary charges, you must have unlawfully entered or remained in a building, or just a portion of a building, with the intent to commit a crime. Crimes included under burglary are any felony, theft, assault, lewdness, lewdness involving a child, sexual battery, and voyeurism. In the past, burglary could only be committed in someone’s home. Today, the definition has expanded to include any building or structure, such as an office, a storefront, or even a vehicle. Burglary is a second-degree felony when committed in a home or dwelling. It is a third-degree felony if committed elsewhere.
Aggravated burglary carries the same elements as burglary with a few additional caveats. A defendant may be convicted of aggravated burglary if, while committing or fleeing from a burglary, they cause someone else bodily harm. Aggravated burglary also occurs when a defendant uses a dangerous weapon or explosives during the commission of a burglary. Aggravated burglary is a first-degree felony.
Burglary is often confused with robbery. The key difference being that burglary is a crime against property, whereas robbery is a crime against people. While burglary may involve the crime of theft, much like robbery, it does not have to and is charged separately from whatever crime is committed inside the home.
Unlawful Presence and Burglary Charges in Utah
Defending against burglary charges can be done by negating or disproving the essential elements of the crime. If all the essential elements are not proven, a defendant cannot be convicted. One critical element of burglary is that the defendant must have been present unlawfully.
An unlawful presence does not necessarily have to be a forceful one. Burglary does not need to be accomplished by force in order to be completed. Being unlawfully present could be as easy as walking through an unlocked door into a house that is not yours. By proving you were in fact present lawfully, we may get the charges against you dropped. A lawful presence would be like being invited into a home. It could also mean that you have a legal right to be on the premises even though someone else does not want you there.
Not only that, even if your presence is unlawful, you must be aware of that unlawfulness. For example, if you walk through an unlocked door into someone else’s home, that might be burglary. However, if you walked into the home by mistake because you live in an apartment complex where all the homes look the same, this would not be burglary.
Being unlawfully present is essential to charges for burglary. If we can show a court that you were not unlawfully present, we may get your charges dismissed or reduced.
Criminal Intent and Burglary Charges in Utah
It is not enough to merely be unlawfully present to be convicted of burglary charges. You must also have the intent to commit a crime once inside. This is another essential element without which a defendant cannot be convicted of burglary.
Even if you are unlawfully in someone’s home, you cannot be convicted of burglary if you did not have the intent to commit a crime. However, that does not mean you cannot be charged with a crime. Being unlawfully present in someone’s home might still result in criminal charges, just not burglary.
Also, if you committed a crime in someone else’s home while you were lawfully present, this is not burglary. For example, if you are invited over to a friend’s home and decide to steal a pair of their earrings while you are there, this is not burglary. It is still theft, but not a burglary.
While being unlawfully present in someone else’s home or business may lead to criminal charges, if you did not intend to commit a crime when you entered, those charges should not include burglary.
Reducing Your Burglary Charges in Utah
If we cannot have charges dismissed, we can at least work to get them downgraded to lesser offenses that carry lighter penalties. For example, if you have been charged with aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony, we can work to get it downgraded to regular burglary, a lesser charge.
Aggravated burglary requires bodily harm or injury to a victim or the use of a weapon or explosives. If we can prove that you did not cause the victim’s injuries, we can have the charges downgraded. Also, if we can demonstrate that you did not use a dangerous weapon, or it did not fit the definition of a dangerous weapon under § 76-1-601 of the Utah Criminal Code, we could also have the charges downgraded.
Charges can also be downgraded through a plea agreement. A prosecutor may reduce your charges in exchange for a guilty plea. You would be waiving your right to a trial, but you would serve a lighter sentence than if you were convicted of your original charges. Our Park City criminal defense attorneys can negotiate with prosecutors to get you the best plea agreement possible.
Reach Out to Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys About Your Burglary Charges
If you are facing criminal charges for burglary, our Riverton criminal defense attorney is here to help. We will work to provide you with the best defense possible. Reach out to Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free consultation about your case.