A conviction for burglary has serious consequences, including the possibility of life in prison.Elements of Unarmed Burglary
In order to convict a defendant of unarmed burglary, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Broke into and entered a dwelling house;
- During the nighttime; and
- Intended to commit a felony while inside.
A Dwelling House is any place that people live. Dwelling houses include single family homes, apartments, duplexes, hotels, dormitories, and tenement buildings.
A felony is any crime that is punishable by a state prison sentence. Examples of felonies are assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, larceny over $250, and rape.Elements of Aggravated Armed Burglary
There are enhanced penalties for defendants who are convicted of committing a burglary while armed with a dangerous weapon. For example:
- A defendant is subject to 10 years in state prison if, at the time of the burglary, there is another person who is lawfully inside the home and the defendant:
- A defendant is subject to 15 years in state prison if, at the time of the burglary, he is armed with a shotgun, rifle, firearm, assault weapon, or machine gun.
1) Is armed with a dangerous weapon; or
2) Arms himself with a dangerous weapon while inside the home; or
3) Actually assaults the person who is lawfully inside the home.
Burglary cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Identification - Because unarmed burglary necessarily involves conduct that occurs at night, identification is often a live issue at trial. How was the defendant able to be identified when it was dark outside? Attorney Spring aggressively cross-examines all eyewitnesses in these types of cases.
- Defendant’s Intent - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit a felony after breaking into the dwelling house. Unless there is a history between the defendant and the homeowner, this is often an element that can be aggressively attacked at trial – how can the jury possibly know what the defendant was intending to do once he or she got inside the dwelling house?
There are enhancement statutes that provide for much more serious penalties if defendants have been previously convicted of serious crimes. For example, the Massachusetts habitual offender statute mandates that if a defendant has been previously convicted at least twice of crimes and served at least three years in state prison, he automatically receives the maximum penalty of the current crime, which is life in prison for burglary. By indicting defendants for being habitual criminals, the District Attorney’s Office has an enormous amount of leverage and will often offer to dismiss the habitual criminal indictment in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty and accepting a long sentence on the burglary charge.
When Attorney Spring was an assistant district attorney early in his career, he prosecuted defendants for burglary and indicted defendants for being habitual criminals. Since becoming a defense attorney, he has successfully defended clients charged with those same laws. Given the serious consequences that result from a burglary conviction, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.