By: Mark Diaz
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How Serious Is Burglary of a Habitation In Texas?
Burglary and robbery are treated seriously in Texas, and you face severe consequences if convicted. If you have been charged with burglary of a habitation in Texas, you need a strong criminal defense strategy today, and the Galveston County burglary lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates can help you.
What Is Burglary?
Under Texas laws, burglary means entering another person’s property without their consent with the intent to commit a crime, but this does not necessarily involve the intent to steal. While many Texas burglaries involve stealing, this is not essential to be charged with the crime. The Texas Penal Code says that burglary occurred in these situations:
- You entered a habitation or part of the building closed to the public to commit a theft, felony, or assault.
- You were concealed in the building to commit a theft, felony, or assault.
- You entered the building or habitation and committed or attempted to commit a theft, felony, or assault.
The term ‘habitation’ is referred to several times in the laws that deal with burglary. Usually, we consider a habitation as an apartment, house, or similar residence. But the Texas Penal Code uses a more specific definition: A habitation under the law is any structure or vehicle that is intended and adapted for overnight accommodations for a person or persons. So, a habitation can be an RV or even a tent at a campsite.
So, in theory, if someone can sleep in an enclosed space, the law considers it a habitation. The habitation does not have to be occupied when the entry happens for it to be charged as a burglary. Also, theft or another crime doesn’t need to have occurred inside the habitation.
For example, suppose a person plans to rob a home in Galveston County. He waits for the homeowner to drive away, then jimmies the back door. After entering the house, the homeowner’s dog snarls at the intruder, who exits without stealing anything. Even if the person did not take anything, burglary still occurred. The crime happened when the person entered the habitation without permission with the intent to commit a crime. The fact that he did not steal anything does not matter regarding a burglary charge.
What Is Theft and Robbery?
The following term to consider under Texas law is theft. This crime is when you take someone’s property without the property owner’s consent. The Texas Penal Code states that theft is the ‘unlawful appropriation’ of property to deprive the owner of that property.
Theft does not need to involve burglary or violence. For instance, if you shoplift, you are in the store during business hours and not committing burglary. If you simply steal a pair of jeans from a rack and walk out, you did not commit violence, but a theft was committed.
If theft involves committing or threatening violence, this converts into robbery. The Texas Penal Code states that robbery occurs when a person, in the commission of committing a theft, either: (1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or (2) intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.
So, if you point a handgun at someone and tell them to give you their money, that is robbery. You do not have to shoot or harm them for robbery to occur. Just pointing a firearm at someone is enough to put the person at fear of death or severe bodily injury.
If the robbery involves using a deadly weapon, it will be charged as aggravated robbery. This is a more severe charge that carries harsher penalties. The crime can also be aggravated robbery if the victim is over 65 or disabled.
In summary, burglary happens if someone enters the habitation with the idea of committing another crime. Theft is when you take another person’s property without their consent, while robbery is when you injure or threaten to injure someone when stealing their property. Just remember that all robberies involve theft, but not every theft involves robbery. Burglary can involve both theft and robbery.
What Are the Punishments For Theft In Texas?
Theft can be prosecuted in Texas as a misdemeanor or felony, according to what the property is worth. For example, theft of property less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, and theft of $300,000 or more in property is charged as a first-degree felony. Other types of theft crimes are charged as follows:
- Class B misdemeanor: $100 to $749 in property.
- Class A misdemeanor: $750 to $2,499 in property.
- State jail felony: Between $2,500 to $29,999 in property.
- Third-degree felony: $30,000 to $149,999 in property.
- Second-degree felony: $150,000 to $299,999 in property.
There also are some particular situations where the theft could be charged differently. For instance, if you steal a person’s driver’s license, this is a Class B misdemeanor. If you have other theft convictions, you will be charged with a higher-level misdemeanor or felony, depending on the situation. Some kinds of property could be charged differently, for instance, stealing livestock or precious metals. Maximum sentences for theft crimes are:
- Class C misdemeanor: Up to $500 fine and no jail time.
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a fine of $4,000.
- State jail felony: 180 days to two years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Third-degree felony: Two to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Second-degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
- First-degree felony: Five to 99 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Punishments For Burglary and Robbery
The burglary penalty largely depends on what the property is. Burglary of a habitation is a second-degree felony, and burglary of another building is a state jail felony. So, if you commit burglary against a single-family home or apartment, you can get up to 20 years in state prison. But you would only get up to two years if the burglary was of a retail store.
It is possible to be hit with a first-degree felony with a potential life sentence if the burglary was of a habitation and you entered the residence to commit another felony, not just theft. So, if you enter the home with the idea of committing murder, state prosecutors could charge you with a first-degree felony.
On the other hand, robbery is a second-degree felony, usually, but aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony. The difference in these cases could be simply threatening the victim with a gun.
What Are Potential Defenses to Theft And Robbery Charges?
Burglary of a habitation or robbery charges in Texas can put you behind bars for a long time. That is why you need to retain a skilled Galveston County burglary attorney as soon as possible if you face such a charge. The good news is, depending on the case, there could be several possible legal defenses available:
Lack of Intent
An effective defense for theft and robbery charges is that you did not intend to commit the crime. If your defense attorney can prove you lacked intent to commit theft, assault, or other felony when you entered the habitation, it can improve the case outlook. Lack of purpose can be shown by proving you had a legitimate reason for entering the property. For instance, you could argue that you entered the home when the owner was not there to leave a message or a piece of property, but you mistakenly entered the wrong home.
The alleged victim may have misidentified you as the perpetrator. In the heat of a crime, an eyewitness can provide unreliable testimony. Your lawyer could provide evidence that you were not the person who committed the crime. This defense would likely be more believable if an alibi witness and/or video footage to prove you were elsewhere can be produced on your behalf.
Your criminal defense attorney will review the prosecutor’s evidence carefully. If there is not enough evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, your lawyer may argue for a case dismissal. Your lawyer could challenge whether the witnesses are credible and whether the physical evidence is authentic. Your attorney could cast doubt on the entire case by pointing out gaps in the state’s evidence.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Your attorney will also review how the police arrested you and whether they followed procedures to obtain critical case evidence. Some evidence could be suppressed if they violated your constitutional rights during the arrest or investigation. This defense could be vital if the police searched your residence or vehicle without a warrant.
Talk To Our Galveston County Burglary Lawyers Today
If you have been charged with burglary in Texas, time is of the essence. The prosecutor will work tirelessly to convict you, but our Galveston County burglary lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates will defend you to the best of their abilities. Schedule a consultation today at (409) 515-6170.