If you are tried and convicted of burglary charges, the case will go back to the judge so they can issue your sentence. Judges determine a defendant's sentence based on the language of the relevant state statutes. They will also consider the facts of the case.
In a burglary case, the degree of the criminal charge will influence the sentence a judge imposes. Your sentence also depends on whether the facts of your case warrant a misdemeanor or felony charge. Depending on the facts of your case, the state may file first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree burglary charges against you.
The following is an overview of burglary sentencing and penalties. It includes factors considered by the court and hypothetical examples of burglary cases.
The Crime of Burglary
Most statutes define burglary as the unlawful entry into any structure with the intent to commit a crime. It doesn't matter what crime you plan on committing once inside. While burglary laws vary from state to state, this definition is standard.
For the state to convict you of this crime, they must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a serious charge—you may want to seek legal representation immediately after your arrest.
Depending on the facts of your case, you may face time in state prison. It's crucial that your burglary attorney has ample time to devise your defense strategy.
Burglary Sentencing Factors
Burglary statutes will generally contain several options for judges to consider when they hand down a sentence. Sometimes, the statutes will list several distinct sentences. For example, the judge may have the discretion to issue a one-year, two-year, or three-year prison sentence. Statutes could also contain alternative sentences, such as fines or restitution.
To select the actual burglary sentence, judges will consider these statutory ranges in addition to any aggravating and mitigating factors that might be present in the case.
Aggravating factors are those things surrounding the case that tend to make it a more serious matter. This can include the presence of a particularly vulnerable victim or the defendant's leadership role in the crime.
Some of the more common aggravating factors that can increase your sentence include:
- Using force during the commission of the crime
- Using a deadly weapon
- Committing a residential burglary versus a commercial burglary
- Breaking and entering in the middle of the night
- Whether anyone was injured during the burglary offense
If the prosecutor can prove that any of these aggravating factors exist, you may receive more prison time and more significant fines.
Mitigating factors, on the other hand, are meant to convince the judge to reduce the severity of the sentences they hand down.
Some mitigating factors that may exist in your burglary case include:
- A lack of a criminal record
- A willingness to accept responsibility for the offense
- A lack of a use of force
- When nothing was stolen, and nobody was injured
If your burglary defense lawyer can demonstrate that any of these mitigating factors apply to your burglary case, your sentence may be reduced.
Examples of Burglary Penalties
Here's an example of how a conviction and sentence occur in practice:
New York has three degrees of burglary—first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. The possible sentences for a first-degree burglary conviction range from one to 25 years. Second-degree burglary is subject to a one to 15-year sentence. Judges can sentence you for any term up to seven years for a third-degree burglary conviction.
Imagine that a jury has just convicted Doug (the defendant) of second-degree burglary. He broke into his neighbor's house and stole a laptop. The judge can sentence Doug to anywhere from one to 15 years. Doug has no prior convictions, and he has demonstrated genuine contrition. Moreover, the neighbor knows Doug and writes a letter to the judge telling him that Doug is a good person who's just fallen on hard times.
Taking all these factors into account, the judge decides that an 18-month sentence is appropriate. The judge hands this sentence down to Doug at the end of the sentencing hearing.
Speak With a Criminal Defense Lawyer To Help in Your Case
Whether you're like Doug from the example above or the Hamburglar, burglary is a serious crime that carries lasting consequences. Find out more about how a burglary conviction can impact your criminal record. Contact a criminal defense attorney in your area today.
Burglary Penalties: Additional Resources
The following resources will help you understand related property crimes, possible penalties, and what to expect if you hire a criminal defense attorney.