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What Are Potential Defenses against a Burglary Charge?

When facing burglary charges, you will need a strong defense. In New York, burglary charges are now considered violent crimes, with the severe penalties that violent crime charges bring. This blog post will explain three common defenses and how your lawyer may approach them. Consider contacting a Rockland County violent crimes lawyer, who will discuss the details of your case and your options with you.

What Is Burglary?

The crime of burglary has three elements, all of which need to be proven. The prosecution must prove that:

  • You broke and entered without authorization
  • Into a building or occupied structure
  • While fully intending to commit a crime

If any of these elements aren’t proven, the prosecution may not succeed on burglary charges (though they might succeed on other grounds).

Four Defenses Against Burglary

There are numerous defenses against burglary, particularly depending on the specifics of your case. The following describes some common defenses and difficulties associated with them, so that you have a sense of what may or may not work in court. As always, reach out to knowledge attorneys, such as our firm, and we explain what you need to know in detail.

Actual innocence

The most obvious defense is to argue that you didn’t do the crime. The standard of proof for a burglary charge is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” To win your conviction, the prosecution needs to convince the court that the only reasonable explanation is the one the prosecution offers from the evidence they present. Therefore, if the defense can create plausible doubt in the jury’s mind, you may be acquitted. The difficulty with this defense is that juries might wonder why the prosecution even charged you, if you are innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.

It Isn’t What It Seems

With this defense, your lawyer will acknowledge that you did the behavior you were accused of, but your lawyer will argue that the behavior, given the total of the circumstances, did not amount to a crime.

For example, your lawyer may say that you did enter that building, but you had or believed you had permission to enter. This would mean that you couldn’t have broken and entered, because you thought you had permission. Even if you thought wrongly, this defense may work, so long as your lawyer can prove that your belief was reasonable.

Lack of Intent

The third element of burglary is the intent to commit a crime. To prove this, the prosecution must show that that you had the specific intent to commit a crime. The prosecution may point to the fact, if the facts of the case allow them to do so, that you were carrying burglary tools or that you had a deadly weapon.

Another example is intoxication. Although arguing that you were intoxicated may bring its own complications in terms of admitting to other charges, if your lawyer can prove that you weren’t able to form an intent due to intoxication (whether by alcohol or controlled substances), you may defeat the burglary charge. In a similar manner, your lawyer may also argue that a state of mental distress, illness, or disability meant you could not form the requisite intent.

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