First-degree burglary is a felony. It follows that a conviction remains in your permanent record. With the age of integrated data, a simple background check and the felony record will show. Such a record directly affects your employability, ability to rent an apartment, access to credit facilities from financial institutions, running for public office, and bar you from voting, just to mention a few of the adverse effects of a felony conviction. Having a criminal defense attorney argue on your behalf increases the chances of a favorable outcome of your case. Get in touch with the Phoenix Criminal Attorney team, and let us fight for you in the matter.
Burglary refers to entering a building, structure, home, or yard to commit a felony or rob the place. The crime is also referred to as breaking and entering. Prosecutors pursue the different categories of burglary based on the circumstances of each case. Prosecutors can pursue:
- First-degree burglary charges pursuant to Arizona law ARS 13-1508
- Second-degree burglary charges under Arizona law ARS 13-1507
- Third-degree burglary charges pursuant to Arizona law ARS 13-1506
It also follows that each charge has its own set of penalties.
You will be found guilty of a first-degree burglary if you committed a second or third-degree burglary while possessing an explosive, a dangerous instrument, or a deadly weapon. Possession, in this case, is interpreted as carrying a deadly weapon or physically holding it. It could also mean that you had control over the object.
Further, a dangerous instrument is any device capable of causing death or inflicting significant physical injury on another if used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used. On the other hand, a deadly weapon includes knives, firearms, or any other weapon capable of causing death or inflicting significant bodily injury to the victim. The list consists of a BB gun, bottle, car, tire iron, and an unloaded firearm.
All these are elements of first-degree burglary prosecutors must prove according to Arizona law ARS 13-1508.
ARS 13-1507 defines second-degree burglary as the unlawful entry in or on a residential structure and remaining there with the intent to commit theft or a felony.
From ARS 13-1507’s definition, entry to a structure is only considered if you penetrate the structure’s outer boundary. This includes walls, windows, or doors. A residential structure refers to any property adopted for human occupancy. The structure can be permanent or temporary, movable or immovable, and it does not matter if the structure was occupied or empty for you to be found liable.
Third-degree burglary offenders illegally enter a non-residential structure, a residential fenced yard, or a fenced commercial yard or remain there to commit theft or a felony. Such action is a violation of Arizona law ARS 13-1506.
ARS 13-1506 defines a structure to include trucks, cars, and other motor vehicles. Therefore, you are guilty of a third-degree burglary offense if you break into a motor vehicle through a master key or by manipulating a key to commit theft or a felony.
Therefore, the threat to human life either by causing death or inflicting serious injury to the victim will convince prosecutors to prefer first-degree burglary charges.
Defenses to a First-Degree Charge
Hiring the right attorney for the job grants you access to the best defense strategy in your defense. Here's a look at the most common defenses used in first-degree burglary cases.
You Had No Intent To Steal
You can only be guilty of burglary if you intended to steal or commit a felony while at the property. Some acts are purely accidental and could be mistaken for burglary. For example, you could have entered the property mistakenly because you were lost. It could also be that you required help and accessed the property to request assistance. All these are possibilities that show a different intention than theft.
Legal Right To Be On The Property
Prosecutors must prove that you illegally entered the property in the case. If you have a legal right to be on the property, whether by ownership or express authority, you are not in violation of ARS 13-1508 and, therefore, not guilty of the crime.
Tenancy agreements grant authority to access and use the property. Equally, trust relationships, like that of a caregiver and a vulnerable individual or a delivery agent dropping off goods at the property grant authority to the property. Employer-employee relationships too require this authority to access, manage or use the property. If these are the prevailing circumstances in your case, your attorney will use this defense.
Case of Mistaken Identity
Most burglary cases occur in the dark. Additionally, most burglars go to extreme lengths to conceal their identities. They will have masks on, cover any unique identifiable aspects like tattoos, put on gloves to not leave any fingerprints, and cover their hair. Therefore, it is hard for a victim to identify a suspect, and thus mistaken identity is a viable defense.
Possession of a deadly weapon, explosive, or a dangerous instrument, as detailed in Arizona law ARS 13-1508, is critical for you to be found guilty of first-degree burglary. Your attorney will prove that you were not in possession of a deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or an explosive at the time of the offense.
Further, your attorney can use this defense if possession, as argued by prosecutors, does not meet the threshold set by ARS 13-1508. For example, owning a gun and not being on your person at the time of the burglary offense does not meet ARS 13-1508’s definition of possession as detailed above.
A Violation of Your Constitutional Rights
The law requires law enforcement agents or police officers to be professional and act within the provisions of the law they are enforcing. Any activities conducted by the officers outside the law is an overreach and a violation of your constitutional rights. You, therefore, have grounds to challenge the first-degree charges if your constitutional rights were violated.
For example, if officers conducted an illegal search and seizure, coerced a confession, or stopped and consequently arrested you without probable cause, the case is dismissable because their conduct violated your rights, thus rendering any evidence obtained inadmissible. Further, if the evidence is not enough to have the case dropped, this argument can help exclude specific evidence from your case.
Penalties of a First-Degree Burglary Offense
ARS 13-1508 violations are felony convictions. You will receive a Class 2 felony conviction if the burglary was committed in a residential property or structure. Class 2 felonies are punishable by an imprisonment term of 12 years and six months.
If the crime was committed in a non-residential structure, residential fenced yard, or fenced commercial yard, you will be convicted of a Class 3 felony. These felonies, on the other hand, are punishable by an 8-year and nine months prison sentence.
Do note that you will receive additional prison terms if you have aggravating circumstances in your case, like a prior conviction.
Offenses Related to First-degree Burglary Charges
In some cases, prosecutors do not have sufficient evidence or a first-degree burglary conviction. They resort to plea bargain negotiations to have you admit guilt to less severe offenses and, in return, drop the first-degree burglary charges. Admitting guilt to lesser changes is an ideal compromise if an outright dismissal of the case is not an option. Let your attorney guide you in making the right call.
The crimes related to first-degree burglary charges are:
Second-degree and Third-degree Burglary
Since first-degree burglary cases are second or third-degree burglary cases with exceptional circumstances, prosecutors can pursue second or third-degree charges. They consider this option if their evidence is insufficient to secure a guilty verdict for a first-degree burglary offense. The exceptional circumstance is the possession of a deadly weapon, explosive, or device whose use will result in the death or severe bodily injury to the victim.
Second-degree burglary is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to eight years and nine months in prison. You will serve a maximum of 15 years for a dangerous offense. Dangerous offenses are felonies that involve the:
- Use, threatening display, or discharge of a dangerous or deadly weapon, or
- Deliberate or willful infliction of significant physical injury to the victim
Third-degree burglary offenses are Class 4 felonies. First-time offenders will receive a 3-year and 9-month prison sentence. If the offense is dangerous, you will serve a maximum penalty of eight years behind bars.
A prior conviction or the existence of any other aggravating factor in your case will result in additional penalties as issued by the judge.
Theft is any deliberate act of taking or using another’s person’s services/property without their consent. ARS 13-1802 details actions that best describe theft. They include knowingly:
- Using another person’s property intending to steal or to deny the owner of said property
- Obtaining services/property through fraud
- Taking the services/property entrusted to them and uses the services/property without the authority to do so
- Assuming control of the missing property without making an effort to locate the valid owner of said property
- Controlling the property belonging to another in full knowledge or with a reasonable belief that the property was stolen
- Using services and failing to pay for them or to offer any form of sufficient consideration.
According to ARS 13-1802, you will be held guilty of theft if, without full authority, you knowingly assume control, use, or manage a vulnerable person’s property beyond the scope of the confidence and trust placed on you. Further, you did so with the intent of depriving the vulnerable adult of the property.
You do not have to deny the owner of their property permanently for you to be convicted of the offense. It is enough that you took the property, intending to deprive them of the property’s benefits for whatever time.
Theft charges are penalized based on the value of the services and property. For theft cases of services/property valued at:
- $25,000 or more, the offense is classified as a Class 2 felony. The crime is punishable by 3 to 12 years in prison
- $4,000 to $25,000, the crime falls under Class 3 felonies and is punishable by 2 to 8 years in prison
- $3,000 to $4,000, the violation is classified as a Class 4 felony and is punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison
- $2,000 to $3,000, the crime is classified as a Class 5 felony punishable by six months to 2.5 years in prison
- $1,000 to $2,000, the violation will be categorized as a Class 6 felony. It is punishable by four months to 2 years in prison
- $1,000, the offense is categorized as a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by 6 months behind bars
The above penalties are for first-time offenders. Subsequent ARS 13-1802 offenders or those with priors for further offenses will receive subsequent sentences to be served consecutively with those issued in the theft case.
Arizona law ARS 13-1902 defines robbery as using threats or force while stealing another person’s property. Ultimately, prosecutors must prove that:
- You attempted to take another person’s property from their possession
- You used threats or force to take the property
- Your use of threats and force were calculated to intimidate the victim into surrendering the property or not to resist
You will be found guilty of the crime even if the threat or the use of force was directed to another and not the alleged victim.
Threat and force are key. For purposes of this law, the threat is defined as any physical menace or verbal outburst that poses a risk of bodily injury to another. On the other hand, force is the physical act directed at a person to control their property. In simple robbery cases, the use of deadly weapons or dangerous devices is not a requirement. However, armed robbery or aggravated robbery charges require the use of weapons for a conviction.
First-time robbery offenders risk facing one to three years in prison if convicted. The offense is considered a Class 4 felony and armed robbery, a Class 2 felony. The crime is punishable by three years to 12.5 years in prison. If the robbery offense is classified as dangerous, as informed by the circumstances in your case, you will be sentenced to prison to spend 7 to 21 years.
Trespass, put simply, is knowingly entering another’s property or remaining in the property without their permission. Arizona law divides criminal trespass into three degrees, the first, second, and third.
ARS 13-1504 defines first-degree criminal trespass through the following actions.
- Enter or illegally remain in or on a residential structure
- Enter or illegally stay in or on a critical public facility
- Enter or illegally stay in a fenced residential yard
- Enter a residential yard and violate the inhabitant’s right to privacy by look into the residential structure on the yard
- Enter or remain in another’s burn or other property and manipulate or deface a religious symbol without the express authority o the owner
- Enter a property subject to a valid mineral claim or lease to explore, take, work, or hold the minerals
A violation of ARS 13-1504 is a felony, and the penalties vary depending on the charges brought forward in your case.
- Class 5 felony convictions are punishable by up to 4years in prison
- Class 6 felony convictions are punishable by up to 1.5years in prison
- Class 1 misdemeanor convictions are punishable by up to 6 months in jail
Pursuant to ARS 13-1503, second-degree criminal trespass is defined as knowingly entering or illegally remaining in a fenced commercial yard or a non-residential property. As a Class 2 misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 4 months or probation. Consequently, the judge may impose a fine of not more than $750.
Any intentional entry or the illegal remaining on a property that the owner or law enforcement offices ask you to leave violates ARS 13-1502. Further, any willful access or unlawful staying on a railroad company’s property is too a violation of ARS 13-1502. Both instances are third-degree criminal trespass offenses.
Third-degree criminal trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by probation or a one-month jail sentence. A judge may also impose a fine of no more than $500.
Contact a Phoenix Criminal Attorney Near Me
A conviction will land you in prison, require you to pay fines, and earn you a criminal record, all adverse effects on the quality of your life. Experienced criminal attorneys grant you access to resources that can be used in your defense. They will hire investigators to determine what happened and gather evidence for your defense. Further, their experience ensures you have the best legal defense to reduce or exonerate you from the robbery charges. As Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our commitment is to ensure we use our resources as your defense attorneys to secure the best possible outcome. Call our experienced attorneys today at 602-551-8092.