Burglary charges in Maryland are serious legal matters that involve entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime, typically theft or another felony. The state’s laws define burglary and establish the penalties for those convicted.
Burglary is addressed under Title 6, Subtitle 2. Section 6-202 of the Maryland Code, which defines burglary as unlawfully breaking and entering into the dwelling of another with the intent to commit a crime. Let’s break down this definition to understand the elements of the offense:
- Breaking and entering: To constitute burglary, there must be both breaking and entering. Breaking involves overcoming a physical obstacle, such as breaking a window or picking a lock, while entering refers to gaining access to the interior of a building.
- Dwelling of another: The offense specifically applies to entering the dwelling of another person. A dwelling is generally a place where someone resides, such as a house or apartment.
- Intent to commit a crime: The defendant must have the intent to commit a crime inside the dwelling. This crime is often theft, but it could also be any felony.
- Unlawful entry: The entry must be unlawful, meaning the person entering does not have permission or legal right to be on the premises.
In some instances, the prosecution may have to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, and as your attorney, my defense strategies will likely focus on challenging one or more of these elements.
Defendants facing burglary charges in Annapolis may employ various defenses to challenge the allegations. Common defenses include lack of intent, lawful entry, mistaken identity, or insufficient evidence to prove breaking and entering. The specific circumstances of each case will determine the most effective defense strategy. We’ll talk more about this later on the page.
Burglary charges are categorized into different degrees, each carrying its own set of potential consequences. The severity of the offense is based on the specific circumstances surrounding the breaking and entering.
First-degree burglary in Maryland is considered the more severe offense of the two degrees. The key elements that constitute first-degree burglary include:
- Breaking and entering: Similar to second-degree burglary, first-degree burglary requires unlawful breaking and entering into a dwelling.
- Dwelling of another: The unlawful entry must occur into the dwelling of another person. A dwelling, in this context, refers to a place where someone resides, such as a house or apartment.
- Intent to commit a crime: The defendant must have the intent to commit a crime inside the dwelling. Typically, this crime involves theft or another felony.
- Aggravating factors: First-degree burglary often involves additional aggravating factors that can elevate its severity. For instance, if the defendant is armed with a dangerous weapon or if there are occupants in the dwelling at the time of the offense, it may be classified as first-degree burglary.
The presence of aggravating factors makes first-degree burglary a more serious offense, carrying harsher penalties upon conviction. Individuals convicted of first-degree burglary may face a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years. It’s important to note that this is a felony offense, and the consequences extend beyond imprisonment to include fines, probation, restitution to the victim, and potential long-term impacts on the individual’s criminal record.
Second-degree burglary, while still a felony, is generally considered a less severe offense compared to first-degree burglary. The key elements of second-degree burglary include:
- Breaking and entering: Similar to first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary requires unlawful breaking and entering.
- Structure other than a dwelling: Unlike first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary encompasses structures other than dwellings. This includes buildings, storage units, and other places not designated as dwellings.
- Intent to commit a crime: As with first-degree burglary, the defendant must have the intent to commit a crime inside the structure.
While second-degree burglary does not involve the aggravating factors that elevate the offense to first-degree, it is still a serious crime in Maryland. Individuals convicted of second-degree burglary may face a maximum prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Apart from imprisonment, individuals convicted of burglary may face fines, probation, restitution to the victim, and other consequences. Additionally, a burglary conviction can have long-lasting effects on a person’s criminal record, potentially impacting employment opportunities, housing options, and other aspects of life.
What are the defenses against burglary charges?
This is where I, as your Annapolis criminal defense attorney, come in. Here are some common defenses that individuals facing burglary charges may consider:
- Lack of intent: One of the essential elements of burglary is the intent to commit a crime while unlawfully entering a structure. Your defense may focus on challenging the prosecution’s ability to prove that the defendant had the specific intent to commit a crime.
- Lawful entry: If you had a legal right to be on the premises, it may negate the element of unlawful entry. For instance, if you had permission to enter or mistakenly believed you had permission, it could be a valid defense.
- Mistaken identity: You may assert you were wrongly identified as the person involved in the burglary. Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable, and factors such as poor lighting or a quick encounter may contribute to misidentifications.
- Insufficient evidence: If the evidence fails to establish one or more elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, it may also be a viable defense strategy.
- Alibi: Presenting evidence that you were elsewhere at the time of the alleged burglary. This can involve providing alibi witnesses, surveillance footage, or other documentation placing the defendant in a different location.
- Consent: Claiming that you had the consent or permission to enter the premises. This could involve situations where you believed you had the right to enter, even if that belief was mistaken.
- Illegal search and seizure: Challenging the legality of the search and seizure that led to the arrest. If evidence was obtained unlawfully, it may be suppressed, weakening the prosecution’s case.
- Duress or coercion: Claiming that you committed the burglary under duress or coercion, meaning you were forced to do so against your will.
Of course, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of these defenses depends on the specific facts of your case. The circumstances surrounding the alleged burglary and the evidence available will all play a significant role in determining the success of a defense strategy.
To find out the best defense strategy for your case, call me, Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law today. I have an intricate knowledge of Maryland criminal defense law, and am prepared to fight for your rights.
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