Atlantic City Burglary Defense Lawyer
Burglary charges can completely upend your entire life. Burglary is a serious felony with very harsh penalties, and defending yourself is far easier said than done.
The crime of burglary involves breaking into a private structure, usually a home or workplace, with the intent to commit a crime once inside. If you or someone you know is arrested for an alleged burglary, you should invoke your right to remain silent and demand an attorney immediately. Burglary is an indictable crime, like a felony in other states, and is often punished with years behind bars. In cases where defendants face multiple charges, including burglary, they face decades in prison. The best defense in your case depends on the unique factors of your situation. Perhaps you did not intend to commit a crime or are caught up in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Conspiracy charges may apply when multiple defendants are involved.
If you are facing burglary charges, our Atlantic City burglary defense lawyers can help you fight these charges and protect your rights. For a free case review, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
Definition of Burglary in Atlantic City
New Jersey’s burglary statute can be found in N.J.S.A. § 2C:18-2. The statute defines burglary to focus on two elements: trespassing, and having the intent to commit a crime in the place you trespassed. Specifically, the statute covers trespassing by:
- Entering a structure;
- Secretly remaining in a structure without permission; or
- Entering the property of a utility company, where signs or fencing are used to keep people out.
New Jersey law defines the term “structure” very broadly. In some states, the definition of burglary requires that the structure you enter is a house, or that someone is present. New Jersey (under N.J.S.A. § 2C:18-1) uses “structure” to refer to any building, whether it is a home or used for business, and whether or not anyone is present. Burglary’s definition also specifically includes research facilities and secured parts of other structures, meaning that trespassing in virtually any building could lead to burglary charges.
In order for a crime to be burglary, and not simply the crime of trespass, you must have the intent to commit another crime when trespassing. This law simply says “crime,” which would include any crime under New Jersey law, regardless of level. Some definitions require that the crime be a felony, a very high level of crime, but New Jersey permits burglary charges for any intended crime. While this crime might commonly be theft, it could alternatively be assault, sexual assault, or some other crime.
What to Do After Being Arrested for Burglary in Atlantic City
Being arrested is an intimidating experience, to say the least. In many cases, defendants panic when confronted by law enforcement and accidentally incriminate themselves. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when faced with law enforcement is to remain calm and not lose your head. That said, cooperating with law enforcement may help make the ordeal go a bit more smoothly.
After your arrest, the police will likely question you about the alleged burglary. Before doing so, they are required by law to inform you of your Miranda rights. These include your rights to remain silent and your right to have a lawyer present. It is crucial that you invoke both of these rights. It can be very tempting to spill your guts to law enforcement in the hopes that you can explain the problem away, especially if you have information that may help your case. However, it is best to remain silent, demand an attorney, and make sure your rights are protected before you communicate anything to the police.
You and your attorney should focus on what comes after the arrest. You may very quickly be pulled in front of a judge to determine important issues like bail and scheduling future hearings. Our Atlantic City burglary defense attorneys can help you protect yourself during these hearings and any future proceedings.
Punishments for Burglary in Atlantic City
Burglary is always a serious offense. No matter how it is classified, it always has a potential punishment of between three and 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. In order to reach the highest levels of punishment, though, you must commit the crime with some additional elements.
If a burglary involves either of these elements, it will be punished as a “second degree crime” – the second highest level of crime in New Jersey:
- If the actor “inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone.” This injury must be done recklessly, knowingly, or purposely in order to qualify. That means that completely accidental injury will not increase the grading of the crime – but proving that the injury was a complete accident is incredibly difficult.
- If the actor “is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon.” This means that the use or brandishing of a weapon increases the severity of the crime. Even pretending to have a weapon or using a fake weapon (such as an airsoft gun) can still lead to an increased sentence.
These instances of burglary are second degree crimes because of the involvement of physical injury or use of a weapon. A second-degree crime is punishable by five to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. Any other burglary is a third-degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
Note that proving these extra elements is not necessary to convict someone of burglary. Even if the prosecution fails to prove injury or weapon use, you could still face five years in prison. However, in order to prove the crime in the first place, prosecutors must prove you trespassed with the intent to commit a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defenses to Burglary Charges in Atlantic City
Any criminal case can feel overwhelming, especially when the charges are as serious as burglary charges. Although the situation might feel hopeless, there is still a way in which our Atlantic City burglary defense attorneys can help you protect yourself. It is important to thoroughly review your case’s details with us so we can develop the most effective defense strategies possible.
Challenging Elements of the Crime
One way we can defend you is to argue over your intent. To be convicted, a defendant must have intended to commit a crime once inside the structure allegedly burglarized. If you did indeed enter the structure but had no intent to commit a crime, we can argue this point in court. Perhaps you had a non-criminal reason for breaking in. for example, you might have been authorized to enter the structure but lost your key, so you have to break in.
Another possibility is that you had a right to be in the structure that was supposedly burglarized. For example, you might have had to break into your own home because you lost your keys, and a concerned neighbor reported it as a break-in. You cannot be criminally charged for breaking into a place you have a right to be in.
Another possibility is that you were not the person who broke into the structure. Unfortunately, people are sometimes caught up in criminal cases due to mistaken identity. If the burglary happened at night, and the real burglars were wearing all black and concealing their faces, it may be hard for witnesses to make a positive identification. If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you might end up charged with a crime you did not commit.
There is also a possibility that you are charged due to some sort of mistake in evidence. Suppose that your fingerprints were found at the scene of the burglary and you loosely matched the description of the burglars given by a witness. You might have a good defense if your fingerprints would normally be at the scene anyway. For example, if the building that was broken into was a place you normally frequent, that might explain why your fingerprints were at the scene.
Another route we can take is to suppress evidence that was seized illegally or is inadmissible. Suppressed evidence is not allowed even to be mentioned in the courtroom. If the police seized a lot of evidence in violation of your rights or the evidence does not meet evidentiary standards, we can significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case against you.
What if I Was Not the Only Person Involved in the Alleged Burglary in Atlantic City?
In many cases of burglary, more than one alleged burglar is involved. Defendants are sometimes confused about why they face burglary charges when their role in the alleged offense was minor. Sometimes, people are charged who did not even enter the house. Not only can you face charges for burglary in this situation, but you might also face conspiracy charges. Our Atlantic City burglary defense attorney can help you protect yourself and your rights.
Conspiracy charges may be assessed when multiple people plan and participate in a crime. For example, two people might be charged for the same burglary if they both planned and executed the crime. However, they do not necessarily have to participate in the same way. Only one person might break into the home or structure while the other stays outside, keeping watch. Both parties may be charged for the full crime.
In some cases, one participant claims they do not know about the crime. For example, you might have been asked to give a friend a ride, not knowing that you were really driving their getaway car. In that case, we can help you fight the conspiracy charges and burglary charges.
Call Our Atlantic City Burglary Defense Attorney for a Free Case Review
Hiring a defense attorney to represent you on your burglary charge can mean the difference between jail and freedom. An attorney, like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, can help get charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed. Call (609) 445-3775 for a free evaluation of your burglary charges with our criminal defense attorneys.