If you have been charged with burglary in our state, you have some work to do. Burglary charges are felony offenses. Even a third degree burglary conviction can land you in jail for three years, and cause you to rack up fines as high as $100,000. If you want the best chance at receiving a positive outcome, you need to start building a strong defense.
How do you do this? Get on the phone and consult an experienced Colorado burglary lawyer about your charges and the possible options available to you. He or she will be able to help you understand what you are charged with, what you’re up against, and how you can prove your innocence or potentially get your charges dropped or dismissed.
The first step? Understanding what the state of Colorado means by “burglary.”
What Is Burglary?
Before you start thinking about defenses, it is important to understand the legal definition of burglary in our state. For example, the definition of second degree burglary in Colorado is as follows:
A person commits second degree burglary, if the person knowingly breaks an entrance into, enters unlawfully in, or remains unlawfully after a lawful or unlawful entry in a building or occupied structure with intent to commit therein a crime against another person or property.
Third degree burglary is very similar, but applies in cases where the perpetrator doesn’t break into a building, but instead into a container like a vault or even a vending machine.
First degree burglary is also similar, but it includes extra factors. For example, if a person knowingly enters unlawfully into a building with the intent to commit a crime and possesses or uses a deadly weapon, then the charge is bumped up to a first degree burglary charge.
These definitions are extremely important. In fact, picking them apart is one of the most common – and most effective – burglary defense strategies.
Common Defense Strategies for Colorado Burglary Charges
Execution of Public Duty – If you were caught entering into a property after public officials had given you permission or authorization, you may be able to use this defense. Even as a private citizen, if you are assisting a public servant to carry out certain functions, you can use “execution of public duty” as a defense.
Choice of Evils – Let’s say you entered a building in order to escape harm, but the residents of the building misunderstood your intentions. If you can prove that remaining in or entering into a building was an emergency measure to escape injury, you may have your charges dropped.
Duress – Say you committed the burglary… but only because another person forced you to commit the crime. You did not intend to commit burglary, but were under the pressure, force, or threat of another individual.
In this case, duress would be an appropriate defense strategy. However, you cannot use this strategy if the prosecution can prove that you intentionally or recklessly put yourself in a position where someone could have used force or threats on you.
Lack of Intent – There are two main parts to committing burglary: (1) knowingly and unlawfully entering a building, and (2) having the intention of committing a crime against another person or property.
The prosecution has to prove both parts for a conviction. If the prosecution cannot prove, for example, that you entered the building with the intention of committing a crime, you may be able to get your charges dropped. Learn more about proving intent here.
Lack of Proof – Again, it is up to the prosecution to prove that you committed burglary. The prosecution has the burden of providing the proof of your crime. If you and your lawyer can negate the proof that they offer, their case won’t hold up for long.
Committing a Less Serious Offense – If you have been charged with first degree burglary, for example, you can also use this strategy to fight for second degree burglary charges instead. While a second degree burglary conviction is not ideal, it may be the best strategy for getting less jail time.
False Accusation – Maybe you just didn’t do it. A false accusation strategy may require collecting DNA samples from the burglarized building, searching through security camera footage, or finding the person who actually committed the burglary.
The bottom line is that every case is unique. Some defense strategies will be more appropriate than others depending on the specific facts of your case.
If you have been charged with burglary, you should consult with a Denver criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you look at your case, choose the most appropriate defense strategies, and gather the evidence than can get your charges dropped.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.