In another interesting Palm Beach Criminal case, a man was recently criminally charged at the end of a date at a woman’s house that took a turn for the worst. When the woman asked the man to leave her home, instead of leaving, he allegedly hit the woman in the face and then kicked her door, causing damage to the door and frame. The man is now allegedly facing charges of burglary with assault, battery, and criminal mischief.
At first glance, the burglary charge in that case might not make any sense; after all, there is nothing in the story to suggest that the man was stealing anything in the woman’s home – he was there by invitation. However, under Florida law, a person does not have to break into a home and steal something to be charged with committing a burglary. Instead, a person can be charged in Florida with burglary simply by remaining in a home after permission to remain in the home has been withdrawn and by having the intent to or by actually committing a crime therein.
Worse, burglary in Florida is a first degree felony if the burglary also includes an assault or battery, a weapon, or damage in excess of $1,000.00. A person convicted of first degree felony burglary charges in Florida could be facing life in Florida State Prison. If there was no assault, battery, weapon, or damage as described above, burglary could be charged as second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison.
There are many lesser included offenses of burglary charges, such as trespass and criminal mischief. These lesser included offenses, depending on the particular case, could be misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail, or third degree felonies punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison. If the State Attorney’s office cannot prove the crime of burglary, but they are able to prove the elements of the lesser included crimes, a person could be convicted of the lesser included offense. Sometimes, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge from burglary to a lesser included offense, depending on the facts of the case. It is easy to see that there is a big difference between being charged with Burglary/Battery and risking a felony conviction versus a simple misdemeanor trespass.
Anyone facing charges of burglary, battery, trespass, or criminal mischief in the State of Florida should meet with a Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss the case, understand their rights and the potential ramifications of a guilty plea or a conviction, and determine the best defense strategy going forward.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.