September 24, 2018
Even though burglary charges often make the news for comical reasons, the penalties for these crimes are far from funny.
Take this recent story from Dallas. A man was caught on surveillance cameras stealing items from a garage in the area, but left viewers laughing as he realized he forgot to put his car in park.
The car is seen rolling away as he chases it with his stolen items. Law enforcement officials shared the video on social media to identify the man, and he has since been caught and charged with burglary of a habitation.
He is facing felony charges, and now may spend up to 20 years in prison. While detained, he is on a $1,000 bond, but may have to pay up to $10,000 in fines for his crime.
If you have been charged with burglary or related crimes, or are afraid you might be, get to know what you are up against. The penalties for burglary in Texas are more severe than you might think, but there are also options for reducing your charges and the penalties against you.
What Is “Burglary” According to Texas Law?
In order to be convicted of burglary in Texas, prosecutors will have to prove that a defendant:
- Entered or broke into a property without permission (or remained on a property past the time they were allowed to be there)
- Entered the space with the intention to commit a felony, theft, or assault
Texas law charges most burglary crimes as a felony. If the building involved in the burglary is not a dwelling, residence, or any place that may be considered a “habitation,” the crime is a state jail felony. If convicted, the offender may be sentenced to up to two years in a state jail and be fined up to $10,000.
Burglary of a Habitation
If the burglary occurred in a habitation, which is defined by Texas law as “a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons,” then charges are increased to a second degree felony. Offenders convicted of burglary of a habitation will face between 2-20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Burglary with Intention to Commit a Felony
Most burglary crimes are committed with the intention to commit theft. If the offender appears to have intentions to commit a serious felony outside of felony theft or assault, they may be hit with a more serious charge. Offenders may face a first degree felony. If convicted, they will face at least five years in prison, with the possibility of going to jail for life.
Burglary of a Vehicle
If the burglary occurs in a vehicle that is not intended for habitation, the charges will not be as serious. Burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, whether or not the offender intended to commit a theft or a felony in the vehicle. The charges are increased if the vehicle is an RV, has a trailer, or has any other items that may make it worthy of staying overnight. If those factors are present, the charges may become burglary of a habitation.
What If You Didn’t Steal Anything? Understanding Texas Criminal Trespass Charges
There are two elements that need to be present for someone to be charged with burglary. However, if a person only meets one of those elements, they may still be charged with a crime.
A person commits criminal trespassing in Texas if they enter or break into a property without permission, or if they stay past the time they were permitted to be there. The severity of the crime depends on what land or building was involved in the trespassing.
Trespassing on agricultural or residential lands near freshwater is a class C misdemeanor.
Trespassing on a habitation is a class A misdemeanor. If the offender had a deadly weapon present, the charge will still be a class A misdemeanor no matter where the trespassing occurred. If none of the above conditions apply, criminal trespassing is a class B misdemeanor.
There Are Defense Strategies Available for Texas Burglary Charges
Many additional penalties are administered to Texas felons. If you are charged with burglary, your best strategy may involve getting your charges decreased to criminal trespass charges. Even if you are convicted, you will have less penalties to face and have a better chance at the sealing your criminal record.
Another option is to build a strategy that will help you get your charges dropped entirely. It is possible to walk away from Texas burglary charges. Talk to a lawyer for information on different defense strategies.
About the Author:
Jeff Hampton has been practicing law in Texas in 2005, first in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, and now as a private attorney with the Hampton Eppes Law Group, protecting the rights of Texans who have suffered injury due to negligence or are facing criminal charges. His success in helping people with their legal troubles has been recognized by clients and peers alike, with a Top Attorney designation and 10/10 Superb Rating on Avvo, and a place on the National Trial Lawyers list of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers.