Florida Burglary Unoccupied Dwelling

A Florida man made news today after the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office posted of a picture of the man sleeping on a bed in the home he was allegedly attempting to burglarize in Nokomis, Florida. The man was reportedly found with a bag of jewelry on the bed next to him. The would-be burglar is facing charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

Although the Sheriff’s Office (and people around the country at this point) are having a good laugh at the “burglar’s” expense, burglary is a serious crime in the State of Florida that is heavily prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office. Burglary of an unoccupied dwelling is a Second Degree Felony in the State of Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000.00 fine.

Anyone who is arrested for Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling in Florida should speak with a Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss their options and determine the best defensive strategy – regardless of the circumstances of the arrest.

 

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.

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Invoking Rights During Questioning

An interesting case from the 1st DCA was published this week and it provides a good discussion relative to my recent blog “Miranda Warnings – Infographic,” 

In the case of State of Florida v. Parker, the 1st DCA revisited the important issue of constitutional rights during an interrogation of a suspect. In that case, the suspect was being questioned by police in connection with a burglary with battery charge (in addition to other charges). Burglary-battery, or “burg-batt,” is a first degree felony in the State of Florida, punishable by up to life in prison, and found under Florida Statute 810.02.

During the questioning, the following questions and answers (at issue) allegedly took place:

Suspect: “Can you just tell me if I need to get a lawyer or something?”

Officer: “Listen, that’s your right. But what I’m interested in is the truth.”

At this point, the suspect allegedly made incriminating statements. 

 

Suspect “Is there a lawyer in the building?”

Officer: “No, you would have to call one.”

The suspect was ultimately placed under arrest. During his case, the suspect (now defendant) filed a motion to suppress his incriminating statements, arguing that the police officer had violated his constitutional rights by not giving him a straightforward answer. The law regarding this issue requires police officers to stop the interview when a suspect asks a question concerning his or her rights, and make a good-faith effort to give a simple and straightforward answer. Once the officer answers the question, appropriately, the officer can continue the interview unless the suspect invokes his her her rights (such as his or her right to remain silent and right to counsel). However, Florida courts have held that when an officer gives an evasive answer, skips the question, or talks over the suspect, the officer has violated Florida’s Constitution and the US Constitution, and any incriminating statements obtained as a result of the constitutional violations may be suppressed as coerced.

 

In this case, the Court found that the officer had in fact made a good-faith effort to appropriately answer the suspects questions regarding his rights. As a result, the incriminating statements the suspect made about himself were admissible in trial.

Interestingly, the Court also mentioned in its ruling that the suspect’s question about “whether there was a lawyer in the building” was not an unequivocal invocation of his right to an attorney. That is an example of why it is extremely important for anyone being questioned by police to know his or her rights so that he or she can properly invoke them if he/she chooses to do so. Many people do not know their rights or the steps they have to take to invoke them. An unclear question regarding a suspect’s rights will not be sufficient to invoke them. A person who wants to stop the interrogation to speak with a lawyer has to clearly make the request. Anyone who has questions regarding their rights during a police interrogation should contact a criminal defense attorney.

 

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.

 

Burglary and Battery

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.