June 15, 2018
In Texas, if you enter someone’s dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, you will face burglary charges. It may be called home invasion or residential burglary in other states, but in Texas, those acts fall under general burglary laws.
In this post, we’re going to describe the burglary laws and associated penalties in our state, along with how a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you.
Definition of Burglary in Texas
Under Texas law, burglary is defined as entering or remaining inside a building, structure, or habitation with the intent to commit theft, assault, or a felony inside, all without consent of the owner. The crime of burglary can be committed in a privately owned or publicly owned building that is either habited or not, a vehicle, a recreational vehicle, or a rail car.
The charges depend on both unlawful entry and intent to commit certain crimes inside. If only unlawful entry occurred, criminal trespass charges may apply. However, the intended crime inside need not actually occur for burglary charges to apply. Additionally, an individual can face charges for staying past a permitted time or hiding inside a building to commit a crime after hours – there doesn’t need to be a break in.
Burglary also applies to situations where a vehicle is broken into with an intent to commit a crime within. The entry of body part (such as a hand) or an object (such as a coat hanger) is sufficient for burglary charges to apply. It’s also important to know that breaking and entering a recreational vehicle meant for overnight accommodations will be charged as burglary of a habitation.
Finally, if an individual breaks into a coin-operated or coin-collection machine with the intent of committing a crime, burglary charges will apply.
For a conviction to occur, the prosecuting attorney must be able to prove the intent to commit theft, assault, or a felony after entering without consent.
Penalties for Burglary in Texas
A conviction for burglary in Texas comes with steep penalties.
Burglarizing a vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. If convicted, an individual can face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. The same penalty applies for burglarizing a coin-operated or coin-collection machine.
If the burglary charge applies to entering a building that is not meant for habitation, the resulting penalty is a state jail felony. A conviction will result in a state jail sentence of six months to two years, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
If the burglary charge applies to entering a building that is meant for habitation, the resulting penalty is a second degree felony. A conviction will result in a prison sentence of 2-20 years, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
If the burglary charge applies to entering a building that is meant for habitation and the offender intended to commit a felony other than felony theft, the resulting penalty is a first degree felony. A conviction will result in a prison sentence of five years to life in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
If previous convictions for burglary and associated crimes exist, the penalties can be enhanced.
Fighting Burglary Charges in Texas
An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you fight your charges with a number of defense strategies. Some of the most commonly used include:
- You had permission to enter the building, habitation or vehicle. The charges can’t stand against you if your lawyer can effectively argue this.
- You entered the building, structure, or vehicle without permission, but you had no intent of committing a crime within. Lesser charges of criminal trespass may apply.
- You entered an open space that is not defined as a structure or habitation, such as a field or garden.
- You were intoxicated when the incident occurred. The use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or certain prescription drugs can remove intent. This strategy should only be used in very specific circumstances.
- You have an alibi.
- You were confused with another person.
- You were forced to commit the crime under the threat of injury, harm, or death to you or those in a close relationship with you.
Any of these defenses may work for you – it all depends on your specific situation. A skilled Texas criminal lawyer will know which strategy is most likely to lead to a positive outcome for you.
Do not wait to get the help you need. A felony conviction will stay on your permanent record and negatively affect your ability to find employment, quality housing, loans, and more. It can impact your right to own firearms, vote, and obtain certain professional licenses.
The sooner you start working with a knowledgeable attorney, the more likely you are to be able to avoid these types of penalties.
Call for a free case review with a qualified attorney. We will work hard to protect your rights.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.