So you’ve been charged with a burglary. Maybe you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or you made a bad choice and it came back to bite you. It happens. Everyone makes mistakes.
But it’s what you choose to do next that will impact your life.
You could simply accept the charges, plead guilty, pay fines, do jail time, and lose a portion of your life. That’s one way to go – but it’s not the only way. With the help of an experienced Colorado burglary defense attorney, you can fight those charges and work to get them reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
You might think burglary is an open-and-closed case, but every case is different. Even burglary. And in order to receive a guilty verdict and be convicted, the prosecution has to prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
How do they do that?
They have to show that you entered a building without permission and with the intent to commit a crime inside. If the prosecution can’t prove either element, you can’t be convicted of burglary. It’s that simple.
The job of the defense is to pokes holes in the prosecution’s attempt to prove that a burglary occurred and cast doubt on whether you actually committed the crime. Generally speaking, whether or not you entered a building is fairly easy to prove one way or the other. And if the owner or manager says they didn’t give you permission, this will be difficult (though not impossible) to argue against.
Because of this, we’re going to focus on how the prosecution will try to prove intent, and how we – the defense – can disprove it.
Intent to Commit a Crime
If you didn’t go into a building intending to commit a crime, then you didn’t commit burglary. Intent is interesting because, obviously, the prosecution can’t claim to have known what was going on in your head. So how do they “prove” intent? By using the circumstances surrounding the case to support their story.
Let’s say it’s pouring and you want to get out of the rain. You decide to wait out the storm in a local high school. You’re not allowed to enter the high school because it’s after hours, but you do anyway.
Although you don’t have permission to enter the school, you still do. So you are breaking the law. Your desire to take shelter from the weather could feasibly land you with a trespassing charge.
But since you don’t have any intent to commit a crime such as stealing or vandalism, you haven’t committed burglary. And if you are charged with burglary in this situation, a skilled lawyer would be able to argue that you had no intent to commit a crime inside the school, and you wouldn’t be able to be convicted on burglary charges.
Now let’s use the same example we just used, but instead of going into the school for shelter you decide to go into the school with the intent to take some art supplies. You go into the school, make your way to the art room, but once you’re there, you change your mind and don’t follow through on stealing the art supplies.
Can you still be charged with burglary?
This is a good question, because you did go into a building without permission and you did have the intent to commit a crime. You just didn’t actually commit that crime. But as the law is written, you don’t have to actually commit a crime inside to be guilty of burglary – you just need to have the intent to commit a crime.
So the answer is yes, you can still be charged with burglary.
That doesn’t mean you will be convicted of burglary, but the charge is valid in this case. You might even be charged with attempted theft as well, since you did intend to steal something – even though you ended up changing your mind.
As you can see, whether you intend to commit a crime or not plays a major role in proving or disproving your burglary charges.
Confessing and Your Right to Remain Silent
Regardless of who you are, being arrested can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. We might say or do anything to make the unfortunate mess simply go away.
But that isn’t advised.
When you are arrested, you should be read your Miranda Rights, and one of those rights is the right to remain silent. Why? Because as countless cop shows have taught us, “anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.” So if you confess to entering a building without permission or to looking for something to steal, or even just try to appease the situation by claiming you didn’t intend to hurt anyone, all of those statements can be used by the prosecution to get a conviction.
That’s why, along with exercising your right to remain silent, you should also exercise your right to an attorney. A knowledgeable Colorado defense attorney with a track record of success will be able to help you figure out the best way to proceed with the least amount of damage to your life and reputation. With a skilled attorney by your side, you can fight those burglary charges and begin to get your life back on track.
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.