Burglary offenses in Washington State are felonies. That means if you’re convicted of a burglary charge, you will likely be sentenced to prison for a long time. You will have to pay large penalties. When you are released from prison, you will likely find it very difficult to find a place to live or to obtain a job.
Often, there are defenses. For starters, the burden is on the prosecution to prove each part of the criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. It may be possible to reduce the charges to a less serious offense. Our skilled Vancouver and Battle Ground lawyers assert legal and factual defenses on your behalf based on the circumstances of your case.
What is the definition of burglary?
There are several types of burglary crimes in Washington:
- RCW 9A.52.020. Burglary in the first degree – a Class A felony: “A person is guilty of burglary in the first degree if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a building and if, in entering or while in the building or in immediate flight therefrom, the actor or another participant in the crime (a) is armed with a deadly weapon, or (b) assaults any person.”
- RCW 9A.52.030. Burglary in the second degree – a Class B felony. “A person is guilty of burglary in the second degree if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a building other than a vehicle or a dwelling.”
- RCW 9A.52.025. Residential burglary – a Class B felony. “A person is guilty of residential burglary if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, the person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling other than a vehicle”.
Under RCW 9A.52.025, “In establishing sentencing guidelines and disposition standards, residential burglary is to be considered a more serious offense than second degree burglary.”
There are a few other key burglary definitions, under RCW 9A.52.010:
- “Enter.” The word “enter” when constituting an element or part of a crime, shall include the entrance of the person, or the insertion of any part of his or her body, or any instrument or weapon held in his or her hand and used or intended to be used to threaten or intimidate a person or to detach or remove property.
- “Enters or remains unlawfully.” A person “enters or remains unlawfully” in or upon premises when he or she is not then licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to so enter or remain.
- “Premises” includes any building, dwelling, structure used for commercial aquaculture, or any real property.
Possible defenses in Vancouver and Battle Ground burglary cases
There are often numerous legal and factual defenses in criminal cases including:
- Proving there was a reasonable doubt about your participation/location at the time of the alleged crime. For example, do you have an alibi and witnesses that can prove you were somewhere else? Who else claimed you were at the scene of the crime? We often work to show this reasonable doubt by raising questions about the version of the witnesses for the prosecution. Questions can include questioning the credibility of the witnesses and introducing evidence to show their version is incorrect in some way.
- Proving a lack of intent. There’s a difference between purposely breaking into someone’s home and taking their TV, and drunkenly wandering into the wrong house to watch TV. Burglary crimes require a showing that the defendant intended to commit a crime against someone or the property while in the property. If there is no intent to commit a crime while in the property, the prosecution’s case should fail.
- Proving you had a right to be there. If a defendant can show that he/she had permission to be on the property, then the crime of burglary should not apply. For example, if a defendant enters a store during business hours for the purpose of making a purchase, and ends up committing a crime while in the store, the defendant may be charged with something – but can assert that there is no burglary because of his/her invitation by the store owner.
- A violation of a defendant’s US Constitutional rights. Defendants have the US Constitutional right to be free from self-incrimination. Generally, the police need a warrant to search a defendant or the defendant’s home. Defendants have the Constitutional right to question the witnesses against them. We assert your Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights.
We’ll assert any other legal defenses that may apply such as the defense of entrapment.
We may assert factual defenses too. For example, we might show that you had title to the building you were in or that you had made legitimate arrangements to purchase any items you took from the property. Even if you didn’t have title, it may be a valid defense to a burglary charge that you thought you did have title to the property or any items on the property.
Should I take a plea bargain if I’m charged with burglary?
If the prosecution has some evidence against you but their case has some weaknesses, they may offer you a plea bargain arrangement. A plea bargain means that a defendant agrees to less serious charges in return for the most serious charges being dropped. For example, a plea bargain could include reducing a burglary charge in the first degree to a burglary charge in the second degree or reducing a residential burglary charge to a theft offense.
There may be times where a plea is your best option, but pleading to a crime still means admitting guilt. It may still mean jail time and fees. Depending on what they offer, it may still mean you have a felony on your record. For these reasons, we won’t recommend a plea just because it’s easier or faster. We will help you weigh all your realistic options, and if a plea is your best choice, we can help you through the process. If it is not, we’ll defend you in court.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA criminal defense lawyers have earned the respect of the police and prosecutors. We assert every defense possible. We have a strong record of dismissals, acquittals, and plea bargains. To speak with an experienced and seasoned criminal defense attorney in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA, call us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.