Phoenix Burglary Attorney

Burglary is a serious crime, charged as a felony in Arizona. If you are facing burglary charges, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced Phoenix burglary attorney as soon as possible. Contact AZ Defenders for dedicated, white-glove service and aggressive criminal defense from a team of trial lawyers with a record of success in defending theft crimes.

Why Trust AZ Defenders With Your Burglary Charge?

  • Our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys are well-versed in Arizona law, with more than two decades of combined experience representing clients in burglary matters.
  • We are respected by our peers and clients alike, with a reputation for aggressive and successful criminal defense and high-quality, personalized service.
  • We will attack any weakness in the evidence against you and use it to strengthen your defense.

What Are Burglary Charges?

In the old days, burglary used to mean breaking and entering the home of another person at night with the intent to commit a felony, but Arizona law has expanded those definitions. Burglary may be defined as unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime. Physical breaking and entering is not required to constitute burglary. The offender could simply enter the structure through an open door. Burglary does not involve the use of force or fear to obtain someone else’s property. In fact, there is usually no victim present when a burglary occurs.

Arizona Burglary Laws

Burglary does not just describe one type of crime. Under Arizona’s burglary laws, prosecutors can charge many different actions and behaviors as the crime of burglary. Burglary does not always mean breaking and entering, for example. You could face burglary charges even if caught with the wrong type of tool in your possession. Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1505 through 13-1508 describe the four main burglary crimes according to state law.

The first type is possession of burglary tools. Statute 13-1505 describes this crime as possessing any instrument or article commonly used to burglar a property with the intent to use the tool to do so. It is also against the law to possess, purchase, sell or transfer a manipulation car key or master key. This law does not, however, apply to someone using a master key for his or her lawful business or occupation. Possession of burglary tools is a class 6 felony crime in Arizona.

The other types of burglary crimes in Arizona are burglary of the first to third degrees. All describe different forms of trespassing on someone else’s property (including a home, business, or vehicle) with the intent to commit a crime. The intended crime may be theft, or it could be another type of felony. It does not matter whether the structure was occupied or unoccupied, whether the burglar used a weapon, or whether the burglar actually committed a felony while unlawfully on the property. It also does not matter if the door was unlocked or open. All versions of trespassing with intent to commit a felony meet Arizona’s definition of a burglary crime. The specifics of the crime committed, however, can determine what degree prosecutors charge, as well as the defendant’s sentence. If you have any questions regarding burglary laws in Arizona, speak with a knowledgeable Phoenix burglary lawyer.

Burglary Lawyer Phoenix

The Elements of a Burglary

For prosecutors in Maricopa County to have grounds to charge you with the crime of burglary, they must show probable cause to make the arrest. Probable cause does not necessarily mean proof or hard evidence, but rather enough suspicion to charge you with the crime. Once the case proceeds to a criminal trial, the prosecutor will have the burden to prove that you committed burglary beyond a reasonable doubt. In general, this takes establishing three main elements of the crime.

  1. You must have entered a property – either by breaking and entering or simply walking onto the premises – without authorization from the property owner. Actual breaking involves physical force to enter, while constructive breaking means gaining entry through blackmail or other nonphysical means. If you had the owner’s permission or a lawful reason to be on the property, you may not be guilty of burglary.
  2. The crime of burglary in Arizona focuses on the unauthorized entry of a building or structure. The prosecution must demonstrate that you unlawfully entered a structure of some kind. This could mean a home, vehicle, business, shed, garage, barn or another structure. In general, the structure must act as housing for people, property or animals. Trespassing within a fenced yard or an abandoned building, for example, may not constitute burglary.
  3. Third, the prosecution must prove your intent to commit theft or another felony while unlawfully on someone else’s property. For your actions to constitute the crime of burglary in Arizona, you must have mentally intended to commit a crime. The crime is usually, although not exclusively, theft. If prosecutors cannot prove your intent to commit a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, you may be able to avoid a conviction.

If the prosecution fails in establishing any of these elements, the jury most likely will not have enough reason to find you guilty of the crime of burglary. It is important to hire a defense attorney to help you combat the alleged elements of burglary as part of your defense strategy. A lawyer may be able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case against you, potentially leading to the courts dismissing the charges and dropping the case. Hiring a Phoenix burglary attorney from the beginning can help you navigate the elements of your criminal case.

What Are the Degrees of Burglary in Arizona?

There are three different classifications of burglary under Arizona law. Burglary in the third degree pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1506; burglary in the second degree pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1507; and burglary in the first degree pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1508.

Burglary in the Third Degree

Burglary in the third degree is committed by entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a nonresidential structure or in a fenced commercial or residential yard with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein; or by entering any motor vehicle by means of a manipulation key or master key, with the intent to commit any theft or felony in the motor vehicle.

A nonresidential structure can include several places, including a car or RV.

Burglary in the Second Degree

Burglary in the second degree is committed by entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a residential structure with the intent to commit any theft or felony therein.

Burglary in the First Degree

Burglary in the first degree is different from the other two forms as it is essentially an “aggravated” burglary. Committing burglary in the third or second degree while you or an accomplice knowingly possess explosives, a deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument is burglary in the first degree.

Penalties for Burglary in Arizona

The consequences of a burglary conviction in Arizona depend on the classification of the crime and can be quite significant. Consequences range from time in prison to financial penalties and can limit your future professional opportunities.

Consequences of Burglary in the Third Degree Conviction

Burglary in the third degree is a class 4 felony. If convicted of a class 4 felony you face 1 to 3.75 years in prison, up to 4 years of probation, and a maximum fine of $150,000. Prior felony convictions can increase this range.

Consequences of Burglary in the Second Degree Conviction

Burglary in the second degree is a class 3 felony. If convicted of a class 3 felony you face 2 to 8.75 years in prison, up to 5 years of probation, and a maximum fine of $150,000. Prior felony convictions can increase this range.

Unlike with Burglary in the third degree, burglary in the second degree requires entry into a residential structure, like a home, apartment, or dorm room.

Consequences of Burglary in the First Degree Conviction

Burglary in the first degree of a nonresidential structure or fenced commercial or residential yard is a class 3 felony. If convicted of a class 3 felony you face 2 to 8.75 years in prison, up to 5 years of probation, and a maximum fine of $150,000. Prior felony convictions can increase this range.

Burglary in the first degree of a residential structure is a class 2 felony. A class 2 felony carries a prison range of 3 to 12.75 years in prison, up to 7 years of probation, and a maximum fine of $150,000. Prior felony convictions can increase this range so speak with a Phoenix theft lawyer experienced in defending against burglary charges to learn more.

Burglary Sentencing Factors in Arizona

If a jury finds you guilty of burglary in Arizona, you will have to undergo sentencing. A skilled Phoenix burglary attorney from AZ Defenders may be able to help you with this part of your case as well, by negotiating with the courts for a lighter sentence. A plea deal before a criminal trial, for example, could lead to lesser penalties for the crime of burglary. During a sentencing hearing, your lawyer could try to protect you from the harshest penalties through tactics such as expressing your remorse, showing your clean prior record or playing on the judge’s sympathies. A defense lawyer will understand the factors a judge will use during burglary sentencing and penalties.

  • Degree of the crime. First, the judge will look at the degree of the burglary crime. First-degree burglary, for instance, will receive a harsher sentence than third-degree burglary. The degree of your crime can change your sentence.
  • Statutory requirements. Then, the judge will check related state statutes to see if they list any specific required sentences. A class 2 felony burglary in Arizona, for example, comes with a minimum sentence of three years in prison.
  • Aggravating factors. If your case involved any aggravating factors, such as an occupied structure, the use of a deadly weapon or physical injuries, a judge may take these into account when determining your sentence. Aggravating factors can increase the penalties against you.
  • Criminal record. Prior offenses – especially of the same type of crime – almost always lead to increased penalties. If the courts previously convicted you of burglary, prepare for the judge to increase your sentence.
  • Mitigating factors. Mitigating factors, on the other hand, may reduce the severity of your sentence. Mitigating factors could include a clean criminal record and a willingness to take responsibility for the offense.

Burglary penalties can include imprisonment (sometimes for life), fines and fees, restitution for the victim, probation, property forfeiture, and a permanent record. Although all burglary convictions receive felony classifications in Arizona, the exact penalties you face after conviction will depend on your specific case. The best way to minimize your sentence is to hire an experienced burglary lawyer in Phoenix. The right attorney may be able to argue for lesser penalties by demonstrating mitigating factors or using a strong defense. Hire a lawyer to make sure you do not say or do anything that could increase your chances of maximizing your sentence.

Phoenix Burglary Attorney

Defenses to Burglary

A strong defense strategy may be available to you as the defendant in a burglary case in Phoenix. Your options will depend on the facts of your specific case. Every defendant in America has the right to legal representation. If you cannot afford a private attorney, the courts will assign a public defender. The skill of your lawyer could make or break your case. A Phoenix burglary attorney from AZ Defenders will explore every possible defense option on your behalf.

  • A claim of actual innocence attempts to convince the court that you did not commit the crime in question. Your lawyer could claim that prosecutors have the wrong defendant using an alibi, for example, or that you were lawfully on the property in question with the owner’s permission.
  • Lack of intent. The intent to commit a crime is one of the most difficult elements for the prosecution to prove. Your lawyer may be able to show evidence that persuades a jury that you were not in fact illegally on a property with the intent to commit a crime. Intoxication, for example, could be a usable defense against intent.
  • Police misconduct. In some cases, the police officers responsible for arresting you may make negligent or intentional mistakes that render any evidence collected inadmissible in court. Examples include Miranda rights violations, constitutional rights violation, mishandling of evidence, unwarranted search or seizure, lack of probable cause for arrest, and mistake of fact.
  • Lack of sufficient evidence. Your lawyer may be able to express to a jury that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof. Lack of sufficient evidence against you could be grounds to find you not guilty based on the fact that the jury has a reasonable doubt you committed the crime.

Other defenses could include coercion and the building was not a structure under the legal definition. The right burglary defense in Arizona could lead to a positive outcome for the criminal case against you, such as dismissed charges, reduced charges, a mitigated sentence or an acquittal. It could, at the very least, decrease your chances of facing the harshest penalties for a burglary conviction. When facing charges as serious as burglary, trust your fate in the hands of an experienced and proven burglary attorney in Phoenix. Contact AZ Defenders about your burglary case right away.

Contact a Top Burglary Lawyer in Phoenix Today

The Phoenix burglary lawyers at AZ Defenders have decades of combined experience in complicated cases like burglaries. When the stakes are high you need someone by your side who can really help protect your rights, liberty, and good name. Call us at (480) 456-6400 or contact us online today and schedule a free consultation so that we may begin crafting a defense specific to your case as soon as possible.

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