Virginia Burglary Lawyer
Trespassing onto another’s property in order to commit theft, rape, kidnap, or any other crimes is an extremely serious charge in Virginia. If you illegally enter a house, business, or another structure (including mobile home or vacation RV) with the intent to commit a crime, you’ll probably face burglary charges if caught. Burglary charges require the immediate attention of a seasoned Virginia burglary lawyer, who can help defend you from some truly serious repercussions.
Even though many believe that “breaking and entering” may mean only breaking a window or breaking down a door, the fact remains that any type of physical force exerted against a home, business, storage locker or any secure structure—even pushing open an unlocked door—can produce breaking and entering charges. “B & E” is the lowest level of burglary crime (often a gateway offense) that can keep a suspect in jail while the property owner inventories his or her properties and possessions. If items are missing, a burglary charge is likely to be added.
Many burglary convictions are labelled Class 3 felonies, which are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. However, if you are carrying a deadly weapon during the burglary, concealed or unconcealed, you may be found guilty of a Class 2 felony. This more serious offense is punishable by 20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The difference between robbery and burglary is that no physical force is used in against a person in the latter offense. In fact, the perpetrator and victim of a burglary don’t often come in contact with each other. Nor does a burglary charge need to involve actually taking any property. Breaking and entering with intent to commit murder, rape, or arson are all charged under the category “Statutory Burglary,” making these offenses more serious.
Statutory Burglary & Other Burglary Crimes in Virginia
How statutory burglary is prosecuted and punished depends on the circumstances surrounding the act and which crime(s) the suspect intended to commit. It can take place in a home or any structure where people are living. According to Virginia Criminal code, the intent to commit murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, arson or assault and battery can result in statutory burglary charges if a suspect:
- Breaks and enters a structure during the day or night
- Enters and then conceal[s] themselves in a home or adjoining structure
- Enters with or without breaking and conceal[s] themselves in any structure used as a home
If convicted, the defendant will receive a Class 3 felony (five to 20 years in prison and possibly a fine of up to $100,000) or a Class 2 felony (20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000). Where each offense falls depends on the specifics of the case and the suspect’s criminal record. However, any statutory burglary committed while armed with a deadly weapon is automatically considered a Class 2 felony.
On the other hand, breaking and entering unarmed with the intent to commit a non-violent misdemeanor is a Class 6 felony (one to five years in prison, or a discretionary sentence of up to 12 months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500). However if the suspect is armed, the charges get elevated right back to a Class 2 felony. See Section 18.2-92.
If someone armed with a deadly weapon enters a bank at any time with the intent to steal anything, the individual is guilty of entering armed with intent to commit larceny. This is a Class 2 felony when found guilty, and the perpetrator will face 20 years to life in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000. (Actual bank robbery constitutes a different offense entirely.) In addition, if a person is arrested in possession of any burglary tools, he or she can be charged with a Class 5 felony and face a penalty of one to 10 years in prison (or in the court’s discretion up to 12 months in jail) and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Common Law Burglary
Virginia also recognizes the offense of common law burglary, which is a separate offense from statutory burglary. To prove common law burglary, the prosecution must establish that you unlawfully entered another person’s home at night time (from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise) with the intent to commit larceny or a felony. Common law burglary is a Class 3 felony in Virginia punishable by a prison sentence from five to twenty years and a fine of up to $100,000. See Section 18.2-89.
It is a Class 2 felony to commit common law burglary while in possession a deadly weapon, which is an offense called armed burglary. Upon conviction for armed burglary, a person faces 20 years to life in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.
Seasoned Burglary Defense in Virginia
There are some defenses that are at your burglary defense attorney’s disposal, depending on the specific facts of your case. For example, the “true owner” defense or “erroneous takings rule” means you can prove that you have a right to what has been taken or that you are retrieving property that rightfully belongs to you. If your lawyer can prove that you were the rightful owner and were taking back property of which the victim wrongfully deprived you, that may be a viable defense. You might still be found guilty of simple breaking and entering under this hypothetical defense scenario, but this is an example of a defense that might give your lawyer an opportunity to negotiate for a substantial reduction in your pending charges depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Regardless of your circumstances, having an experienced burglary defense attorney on your side during the serious criminal proceedings can be a source of great comfort and support during a time when your freedom and rights are in question.