A defendant facing burglary charges needs a strong defense. Fortunately, defendants have several options available to counter a burglary accusation. These defenses range from claiming actual innocence to admitting the behavior in question but arguing that it didn't in fact constitute burglary. If you're charged with this crime, understanding common burglary defenses will help you at trial.
Elements of Burglary at a Glance
Before diving into the most common burglary defenses, it will be useful to reexamine the elements of burglary that the prosecution must prove. It's also helpful to review the elements of robbery, a similar crime that involves theft by force.
Burglary consists of:
- The unauthorized breaking and entry
- Into a building or occupied structure
- With the intent to commit a crime inside.
Each of these elements forms a necessary component of the overall burglary charge, so if the prosecution fails to prove one element, the entire case will fail.
Burglary Defense: Actual Innocence
The most basic burglary defense and the one that most defendants (in any criminal case) will try is a claim of actual innocence. In other words, this defense involves convincing the court that the defendant didn't commit the acts in question.
The prosecution bears the burden of proving a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so in order to defeat a burglary charge a defendant must create a plausible doubt in the minds of the jury as to whether the prosecution's evidence truly demonstrates that they committed the crime.
Defendants can call the prosecution's evidence into question in many ways, such as by presenting an alibi or creating doubt as to the scientific reliability of a forensic technique. If the defendant can successfully sow the seeds of doubt among the jury, then an acquittal is likely.
Burglary Defense: It Isn't What It Seems
Another defense tactic consists of admitting to the court that the defendant engaged in the behavior described by the prosecution, but arguing that it does not amount to a crime. Defendants commonly make the argument that they had the consent of the owner or occupier of the property to enter, thus there was no unauthorized breaking and entry. This is a particularly effective burglary defense under certain circumstances.
For instance, if a defendant had consent to enter a property and the owner/occupier never explicitly revoked that consent, the defendant has a strong argument that there was no unauthorized breaking and entry. Even if the defendant erroneously believed that they had permission to enter the property, the belief in the consent of the owner could be enough to defeat the burglary charge assuming that the belief was reasonable.
Burglary Defense: Lack of Intent
Since burglary also involves the specific intent to commit a crime once inside a building, voluntary intoxication can act as a defense to the degree that it prevented the defendant from forming the required intent.
Burglary Defense: Entrapment
Finally, the defendant could argue that someone entrapped them by convincing them to commit the crime when they otherwise would not have. Entrapment is difficult to prove, but it can act as a defense to burglary if sufficiently supported by the evidence.
Get Legal Help with Your Burglary Defenses: Speak with an Attorney Today
It's well within your legal rights and also within your best interest to defend yourself against criminal charges. The best way to present the best defense is to hire a legal professional who's experienced in such matters. Start by contacting a criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your case and find out your options.