As a Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer, I have represented people charged with burglary and theft in St. Johns County FL. Sometimes, people are charged with burglary when the charge should be theft. In other cases, people are arrested for burglary when they should have been arrested for trespass instead. People are often surprised when they are arrested for burglary when they did not break into a building. You do not need to break into a building to be charged with burglary.
It is easy to mix up grand theft and burglary. Florida burglary laws can be confusing. When a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney represents someone that has been arrested for burglary, she looks at the facts of the case to make sure all of the elements are fulfilled. This can make the difference between a Florida theft, trespass, and burglary charge.
Here is an example. This week, a person or persons stole a giant green bell in St. Augustine FL. Jacksonville Action News reported the story. The article stated that the bell is worth $6,000. With these facts alone, this would be a Florida grand theft case, because the value of the bell is $300 or more. This is a third degree felony. Action News reported that “police responded to a home on Queen Road due to the back gate being open. When they went into the backyard, they noticed a big problem. police responded to a home on Queen Road due to the back gate being open. When they went into the backyard, they noticed a big problem. The giant green bell that sat inside for years was missing.” This means that the people that stole the large bell went into the backyard of a house to steal the property. This is known as the curtilage of a house. This is considered part of the house under Florida’s burglary law. This upgrades the crime from grand theft and a third-degree felony to burglary to a dwelling and a second-degree felony.
The bell belonged to Joyce Simmons. Her accountant, Margot McMillan, stated that “somebody must have cased it out and learned she’s not living there anymore.” This does not make a difference. It is still burglary to a dwelling. It is burglary to an unoccupied dwelling as opposed to an occupied dwelling.
The people that took the bell are probably not St. Johns County lawyers that understand the law. They may believe that they only committed a theft, but they could not be more wrong. Burglary to a dwelling is a serious felony. It scores prison time of under Florida’s sentencing laws. The fact that this yard was fenced in makes a big difference. Detectives will be investigation this case. If someone is questioned about it, they need to remember that they have the right to talk to a FL criminal attorney.
To learn more about the difference between theft and burglary laws, there are two articles on the 20 Miles Law Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer website that you may want to read. Jacksonville Theft Law is in Florida Statute 812.014 gives you the law that applies to stealing. Jacksonville FL Law for Burglary to Dwelling and Curtilage will explain how a fence creates curtilage.