Burglary, robbery & theft are three separate crimes under Texas Law. Robbery is similar to burglary, except robbery involves using or threatening force to steal. This covers a variety of criminal activities, including bank robbery, mugging, and carjacking. Additionally, a related charge known as “aggravated burglary” is a burglary committed with a deadly weapon or one that causes the victim serious physical harm. Whereas simple burglary is prosecuted as a second-degree felony, aggravated burglary is punishable as a first-degree felony.
Burglary itself does not necessarily require proof the defendant stole or took anything. Rather, burglary refers to entering a private building or structure without the owner’s consent and with the intent to commit some other crime. A person who simply enters another person’s property and remains there despite the owner’s prohibition may be charged with criminal trespass, which is normally a misdemeanor offense.
In order to prove burglary, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did any of the following:
- The defendant entered a building or habitation (i.e., a private residence) that was not otherwise open to the public, with the intent to commit theft, assault, or some other felony.
- The defendant remained concealed in a building or habitation–i.e., hiding inside–with the intent to commit theft, assault, or some other felony.
- The defendant entered a building or habitation and attempted to commit a theft, assault, or some other felony.
Burglary of a habitation is considered a second-degree felony in Texas. This means if convicted, an offender faces a potential prison sentence of anywhere from 2 to 20 years and a fine that may not exceed $10,000. The charge may be further elevated to a first-degree felony–and thus a possible life sentence–if the defendant entered the habitation and either attempted or intended to commit a felony other than theft (such as assault).
Most other burglaries are prosecuted as state-jail felonies, although burglaries of hospitals or similar buildings for the purposes of stealing controlled substances are classified as second-degree felonies.