If you’re charged with burglary, you’ll want a reputable law firm in your corner. A skilled criminal defense lawyer will help defend your burglary case, ensuring you receive the right to a fair trial.
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When a Burglary Case Requires a Lawyer
A man strolls into a department store in Henderson, Nevada. He carries a recyclable shopping bag in his left hand. With his right hand, he squashes into the bag an expensive ladies handbag, which he intends to pawn for 30 percent of its sticker value.
He sees the suspicious glower of a nearby attendant, so the man returns the shoplifted purse to its shelf and darts toward the nearest exit door, empty-handed.
Under Nevada state law, did that man in this example commit burglary? The answer may surprise you.
What Constitutes Burglary Under Nevada Law?
As it is written in Nevada Statute NRS 205.060: a person who “by day or night, enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, vehicle, vehicle trailer, semitrailer or house trailer, airplane, glider, boat or railroad car, with the intent to commit grand or petit larceny, assault or battery on any person or any felony, or to obtain money or property by false pretenses, is guilty of burglary.”
Nevada doesn’t define burglary by consequences, but rather by intent.
Condensed version: Burglary is when someone enters someone else’s property with the purpose of committing (most) any crime.
A lot of those legal phrases came after the original statute of 1912. In 1989, the phrase “assault or battery” was added. In 2005, legislators tossed in the phrase “to obtain money or property by false pretenses.” Now, burglary is a legal catcher’s mitt, a statute with jurisdiction into which just about anyone can fall.
Legal Note: Burglary is not quite the same as Invasion of the Home, which is defined as the forcible entry of an inhabited dwelling – which can be currently occupied or vacant – without permission. Theft plays no part. However, penalties for the two crimes are the same.
What Is “Intent to Commit a Crime?”
The case for intent can be made in two ways.The first kind must be proven, that is, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual charged with shoplifting acted with intent. Any circumstantial evidence is fair game. Eyewitness opinion or previous convictions can cast an evil shadow upon innocent behavior.
The second kind is assumed. If there is evidence of forced entry or ‘breaking and entering,’ the judge and jury are instructed, by law, to presume “burglarious intent.” The defense bears the burden of proof. It must demonstrate a felony was not intended, despite the forced entry.
What Are the Penalties in a Burglary Case?
In Nevada, burglary is a Class B Felony. Nevada takes burglary very seriously, so your best bet is to hire a burglary lawyer immediately. Punishments are sudden and severe, and the state makes no distinction between commercial or residential cases.
• Incarceration in the state prison for 1-10 years.
• And/or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Anyone previously convicted or forcibly entering a dwelling will neither be granted probation nor a suspended prison sentence.
Nevada applies harsher penalties for special cases or invasion of the home with a firearm or deadly weapon. Beware the fine print! The statute reads, “A person convicted who has in his or her possession or gains possession of any firearm or deadly weapon at any time during the commission of the crime, at any time before leaving the structure or upon leaving the structure, is guilty.” That means even if the weapon never crosses the front door, it can still be implicated.
• Incarceration in the state prison for 2-15 years.
• And/or a fine not exceeding $10,000.
So how about the gentlemen we met in the introduction? Is he guilty?
No (probably). Under Nevada, entering a commercial establishment during business hours with the intent to commit petit larceny – a theft worth less than $650 – is shoplifting, not burglary. However, if the man …
• Successfully stole an item worth more than $650;
• Had two petit larceny convictions within the past seven years;
• Had a previous felony conviction;
… then he can be prosecuted.
Do I Need A Lawyer for Burglary Charges?
Burglary is one of the few felonies where no “crime” has to take place. The law makes no exceptions for those who recant. Mere “intent” offers a solid enough foundation, and as soon as someone crosses a welcome mat with malevolent intent, the crime is complete. Prosecutors are only too glad to use a burglary charge as a bargaining chip to break the defendant’s case. Any one of the following actions can come under Nevada’s umbrella burglary law:
• Submitting a fraudulent receipt for a refund;
• Entering a home with the intent to fight with fists or words;
• Walking into a bank with recognized burglary tools.
But legal penalties can be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the consequences of a conviction. A Class B felony is an open grenade in a job interview, a college application or adoptive parent application. A burglary conviction becomes a matter of public record, non-erasable by time or good will.
An excellent lawyer can help refute a fraudulent charge in a burglary case. They can undermine a prosecution’s circumstantial evidence, protect the courtroom from rehearsed testimony and possibly secure an acquittal, probation or a forgiving conviction. Now that is assurance.