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Burglary Basics

Let’s talk about burglary in Florida. Every burglary in Florida is made up of three things. First, you’ve got ‘entry’ into a structure, dwelling or conveyance. Second, you have entry ‘with knowledge that you don’t have permission to be there’. And third, you have entry ‘with intent to commit some offense while you’re there’. Those are the three things that go on in every single burglary.

The title of a burglary crime depends upon what you’ve entered. So, if you’ve entered a car, we call that burglary of a conveyance. If you’re accused of breaking into a business, for example, that’s burglary of a structure. And, a home burglary is called a burglary of a dwelling.

Now, the first part, that you’ve entered a place, that’s a trespass and every burglary has a trespass at its core. That’s where it all begins. But the debate really starts with the third element, that you had some intent to commit an offense therein. That’s what transforms every trespass into a burglary to begin with. To show you how this works we’re going to talk about the real-life case of Gaskin v. State of Florida, 869 So.2d 646 (Fla 3d DCA 2004).

What happened with Gaskin is that he was in jail, chilling, and he decided to escape. He ran from the jail, got away, and broke into a nearby business to hide. He locked himself in, but they caught him rather quickly. So, his Shawshank moment was gone in a flash. It was disappointing, I’m sure, to him. He was convicted of burglary of a structure, the business he was hiding in. And the prosecutors told the jury that you’ve got to convict him of burglary of this structure because he broke into this business with an intent to escape the jail.

Well, that appeal went up to the higher court (redundant, I suppose) and they threw out Gaskin’s conviction. They said no, this is not a burglary because Gaskin already had his Shawshank moment–he escaped from the jail before entering the business. What crime was Gaskin intending to commit in that business? He intended to commit nothing inside of that business. So there was no burglary, this was just a trespass. Hiding after you’ve already committed an escape is not a burglary. It is a trespass.

Another problem with these burglaries is this term “entry”. We attorneys pick on everything and we’re going to pick on “entry” too. Because, entry is pretty obvious when somebody breaks down the front door of a home. But, what if they are just rummaging through a back patio? What about a fenced back yard?

And if we’re talking about a car, a burglary of a conveyance, if you’re accused of stealing the rims off a car–is that burglary of a conveyance? No. Its not. Because, you never went inside the car. You have to enter a car with the intent of taking (stealing) something inside the car. Otherwise, you only have a trespass, if that. So, that’s my quick review of burglary basics. I appreciate you watching, have a great day. Take care.

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