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Elements needed for burglary and defenses

On Behalf of | May 23, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Current figures show about 2.5 million burglaries occur annually. Most states, including Texas, have stiff penalties for committing burglary. There are also certain elements that must be proven to charge defendants.

Elements needed for burglary

The two main elements required for burglary in Texas are the unlawful breaking into a structure and intent to commit a crime. The definition of burglary was more specific in the past, which required breaking into a residence at night. Many states have broadened their definition of structure to include anything habitable, such as vehicles designed for overnight stays.

A person does not have to enter all the way into the structure to get charged with burglary. For example, if they raise a window and stick their hand through it, it commonly counts as burglary.

Even when they have permission to be in the structure, an issue could arise for staying longer on the property than allowed. The defendant may also get convicted if the prosecution can prove they had intent before attempting to enter the structure.

Defenses to burglary charges

Since intent to commit an offense in the structure is required, the criminal defense could argue the defendant lacked the intent. For example, standing near a structure isn’t enough evidence the defendant had the intent to commit a crime.

The defense may argue entrapment, which means a government official or entity coerced them into breaking in when they otherwise wouldn’t have. They could claim they had permission to enter the structure, and the owner had not revoked it.

Another defense is challenging the evidence brought up in a case, such as eyewitness testimony and fingerprints. For example, a witness could misidentify a suspect, especially at night or from a distance, and fingerprints are not always reliable evidence.

Burglary charges in Texas often with a $10,000 fine and two to 99 years of jail, depending on the degree. However, the prosecution has the burden of proof to convince the jury, which can be challenged.