First-degree burglary is a serious offense in Arizona. The law considers the crime a felony, and conviction could remain in your criminal records. Therefore, you will find life challenging in the future since a background check when seeking a job will show the criminal record. Also, you will not be able to rent a house, run a public office, access loans from financial institutions, and even vote. However, you can still fight the charges through the help of an aggressive criminal defense attorney.
At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we are here to provide the legal help you require. We will argue the case on your behalf and increase the chances of winning. Our legal staff consists of high-quality lawyers ready to work with you. We believe the right time to work with our attorneys is now.
What is the Lawful Meaning of First Degree Burglary?
In Arizona, you commit a first-degree burglary when you commit a third or second-degree burglary while possessing a deadly weapon, dangerous tool, or explosive. Possession under this context refers to holding or carrying a dangerous weapon. Again it can mean you had control over the weapon even if you were not holding it.
A deadly or dangerous weapon includes any tool capable of attracting great bodily injuries or death to other people when used, threatened, or attempted to be used. Alternatively, a deadly weapon includes firearms, knives, or any other weapon which might attract death or great bodily injuries when used. The weapons include a bottle, unloaded firearm, BB gun, and tire iron. You need to always work closely with a criminal defense attorney to help you whenever you require legal help. The legal system might be challenging, especially when a first-time offender.
The Elements of 1st Degree Burglary
To face conviction for first-degree burglary, you must meet all the elements of the crime. The prosecution team has the burden to prove these elements. It means the prosecutor must have probable cause for your arrest. The probable cause doesn't necessarily require hard evidence but enough suspicion for you to face charges for first-degree burglary. When the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution team will have difficulty proving you committed the crime. Failure to prove the elements clearly, you will not face conviction. The elements are:
Illegally Remaining in or Entering a Structure
The prosecutor should prove you remained or entered a building. Illegal entering a structure could involve breaking the structure. Once the structure is broken, it is an indication that you remained or entered the building. So, it is upon the prosecutor to show that you remained or entered the building before the court. If the prosecutor fails to prove this element, you will not face conviction for first-degree burglary. The court may consider dropping the case or reducing it to a less severe charge.
Presence of Deadly or Dangerous Weapons
The prosecutor's second element to prove is that you had a dangerous weapon when committing the crime. The weapon may include a gun or any other destructive device. Note, even when the prosecution team cannot provide enough evidence, you might still face a second or third-degree burglary based on the nature of your case. However, when the prosecutor fails to show any evidence, you will not face burglary charges in the state.
The last element in a burglary charge is intent. For you to face conviction, the court only needs to prove your intent to commit the crime. This means you may face conviction even when you did not steal anything. It also means you plan to steal items of value in the structure once you are inside. Also, this may mean you remained in a build to see whether there is an item of value to take. These two instances show intent to steal. But, you will not face conviction when the prosecutor cannot do so.
The Possible Penalties for First Degree Burglary in Phoenix
A first-time burglary case will come with penalties like any other criminal offense. However, the court will consider various guidelines when inflicting the sentences. The following considerations will be critical to a felony conviction:
A mitigating factor will reduce the severity of the penalties and punishment. The factors may involve your willingness to take responsibility for the case and a clean criminal history.
A criminal record, especially a similar charge, will lead to harsh penalties. The judge will more likely increase your sentence when the court had previously convicted you with a burglary charge.
When your case involves aggravating factors like using a deadly weapon, the victim sustaining great injuries, entering an occupied structure, the judge will consider the factors when issuing your sentence. It is true aggravating factors will increase your penalties and sentences.
In Arizona, the criminal court judges will consider whether the crime comes with a statutory requirement when issuing their sentence. For example, under the state's law, a class two felony conviction will attract a minimum penalty of three years jail time.
The criminal court judge will also consider other factors when issuing the sentence. The factors include Existence or harm or violence to the alleged victim, A first time offender versus a repeat offender, The value and nature of the stolen property, Possession of a deadly weapon during the crime, The extent of the damages to the property or vehicle as a result of first-degree burglary and Other crimes charged alongside first-degree burglaries like assault and trespass.
A first-degree charge attracts a felony conviction. When the crime was committed in a residential structure or building, you will receive a class two felony conviction. When a class two felony, you will serve a jail term for up to 12 and half years.
Alternatively, when the crime occurred in a residential fenced yard nonresidential building, you will face a class three felony conviction. Therefore you will remain behind bars for a period not exceeding 105 months. It's good you note that when you have other aggravating factors like prior conviction, you will also serve additional penalties.
The Potential Defenses of First Degree Burglary charge in Arizona
A strong defense may be an option to fight your first-degree burglary charge in Phoenix. Since the penalties and the punishment for first-degree burglary are harsh, you need to do something to protect your rights and future. However, for the success of your case, you need to work closely with a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Remember, every citizen in the US has a right to legal representation. The defense your attorney will choose will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case. If you cannot hire an attorney, the court will assign a public defender to help you. The following are the possible defenses for first-degree burglary in Arizona:
Lack of Intent
As mentioned above, the intent is a vital element of the crime. You will only face charges for the crime when you intend to steal the property while in the structure or building. Various activities are purely accidental, and the prosecutor may mistake them with first-degree burglary. For instance, you might enter a property by mistake when you are lost on the way. Also, you might have entered the structure intending to ask for access or help.
These possibilities show the different aims of committing first-degree burglary. It would help if you discussed everything about your case with the defense attorney. Be open for the attorney to use your arguments as the foundation for your defense. After proving the case, the court will consider dropping the charges or reducing it to a minor offense.
A first-degree burglary case may occur in the dark. Remember, a perpetrator of the crime will have the mask, wear gloves, cover identifiable tattoos, and cover their heads. So, it will be difficult for the alleged victim to identify the offender. Therefore, you might be mistaken for the correct suspect. The court will likely drop the charges when you argue this defense since you are not the correct suspect.
You Had Lawful Right to Remain in the Building/Property
The prosecution team must show you entered the property illegally. You will not charge for the crime when you are the property owner or express authority over the structure. Remember, tenancy agreements allow you to use or access the property. Also, a trust relationship like a vulnerable individual or a caregiver grants you authority over the building. Again, the employer and employee relationship are critical for business property. So, your attorney can argue you were an employee using your employer's property/ structure. The court will either drop or dismiss the charges.
The Police Violated Your Constitutional Rights During the Arrest
The law in Arizona requires the police and law enforcement officers to work within the provision of the law during your arrest. Anything committed by the police outside the law violates your rights. The law allows you to challenge the first-degree charge when the police violate your rights during the arrest. Speak with your defense attorney about how the police violated your constitutional rights during the arrest.
Possessing an explosive weapon, deadly weapon, or another dangerous device is a critical element of first-degree burglary. Your criminal defense attorney may show the court you did not possess a deadly weapon during your arrest. The defense might be useful when your attorney believes the case doesn't meet the criteria of ARS 13-1508. For instance, possessing a gun without the intent of entering a structure to commit burglary will not lead to a burglary conviction in Arizona.
Other Related Offenses to First Degree Burglary
Sometimes the prosecution team does not have enough evidence for you to face conviction. They consider entering a plea bargain to have a lesser charge and drop the first-degree burglary charge. The option to admit for a lesser charge is best, especially when you do not have an option for a case dismissal. Do not attempt to handle your case without an attorney's legal help. The following are the common charges convicted alongside first-degree burglary in Arizona:
Second and Third Degree Burglary
As mentioned above, first-degree burglary is a third or second burglary crime with unique circumstances. So, a prosecutor may decide to pursue a third or second-degree burglary case. But, to consider this option, they must have insufficient evidence to secure a first-degree burglary conviction. The unique situation should involve using a deadly weapon, device, or explosives. Also, the crime should involve severe injuries or even the victim's death.
In Arizona, the crime is a class three felony. As the offense defendant, you will face penalties, including imprisonment for around nine months. Again, you will remain behind bars for at least 15 years when the crime in question is severe. A dangerous felony offense involves:
- Use of threatening display or discharging deadly/dangerous weapons.
- Willful or deliberate infliction of great bodily injuries.
Alternatively, a third-degree burglary offense is considered a class four felony. You will remain behind bars for up to three years as a first-time offender. When the offense is severe, you will serve a jail term not exceeding eight years. However, you will face additional penalties when your case involves aggravating factors or you have a previous conviction. Discuss with your defense attorney whether the court can reduce your charges from first-degree burglary to second or third-degree burglary, which are less severe.
Trespass involves entering or remaining in another person's structure without their permission. In Arizona, trespass is grouped into three categories, first, second and third class. You commit the crime when you do any of the following activities:
- Illegally remain or enter a residential building.
- Illegally stay or enter a fenced residential yard.
- Illegally stay or enter an essential public facility.
- Enter a building or property with a valid mineral or even lease to work, hold, explore or take the mineral.
- Remain or enter another person's property or deface a religious sign or symbol without the owner's consent.
Violating ARS 13-1504 is considered a felony. The penalties of the crime vary based on the nature of the crime. The following are the potential penalties for trespass in Arizona:
- A class one misdemeanor carries a penalty of half a year in jail.
- A class five felony carries imprisonment for up to 48 months.
- A class five conviction will carry imprisonment of one year and six months.
A second-degree trespass involves illegally entering or remaining a non-commercial structure. In Arizona, the crime is a second-class misdemeanor. The pursuant faces probation for a period not exceeding four months. Again, you may face a fine of up to $750.
However, a willful or intentional entry to the structure where the owner has asked you to leave violates ARZ 1502. The courts consider the situation as a third-level trespass. In the state, the crime is a third-class misdemeanor. You will serve penalties including one-month probation and pay a fine not exceeding $500. Trespass might be another option which you can request the court to reduce your case to a first-degree burglary case.
Robbery - ARS 13-1902
Robbery involves using force or threats while taking /stealing another person's item or property. Crime is not only common in Arizona but the general country. The prosecution team must prove the elements of robbery for you to face conviction. The elements include:
- You used force or threats while taking another person's property or item.
- You intended to take someone else's property.
- The use of force or threats was aimed at intimidating the alleged victim to surrender their property.
In Arizona, you will face the charges even when the use of force or threats were not directed to the alleged victim. Force and threats are essential elements of the crime. In a simple robbery, the perpetrator doesn't require to use dangerous or deadly weapons. But aggravated robbery or armed robbery involves the use of deadly weapons.
A first-time offender will remain behind bars for up to three years. The law considers the offense a class four felony. Alternatively, armed robbery is a class two felony. As the offender, you will remain behind bars for twelve and half years. You might even stay in jail for 21 years when the offense is dangerous.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
A first-degree burglary charge in Phoenix, AZ, could land you in jail, come with a criminal record, attract heavy fines and greatly affect your future life. That's why you need to seek legal help as soon as you face arrest. Hiring a top-quality criminal defense attorney is highly recommended. The attorneys will work closely with other experts to determine what happened to collect evidence to develop a defense.
At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our attorneys have long experience handling criminal cases, including first-degree burglary in Phoenix, AZ. We are committed to ensuring our clients obtain the best possible outcomes of their cases. Therefore you do not need to waste much time working with inexperienced attorneys. Contact us right away at 602-551-8092, and we will help you fight for your rights.