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Court Discusses the Elements of Burglary

Sometime on July 14, 1995 at 11:30 pm two police officers were in a police cruiser and they were parked with the headlights turned off. They were observing two men outside an auto mechanic’s garage which was already closed for the night. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the two policemen were observing two men who were circling around a parked Chevrolet outside the auto mechanic’s garage.

A little later, the two men took out tools from a tool box they carried and they started removing the hub caps and the lug nuts of the parked car. A while later they were able to remove all the four tires of the car. They took the tires and the hub caps and loaded these into the trunk of their own car. Before they could start their engine the police officers came towards them and declared them arrested.

At the police station, the police officers charged the men for burglary, for possession of tools for burglary and for burglary of a conveyance. A New York Lawyer said the two men pleaded not guilty and they also filed a motion to dismiss the two charges for burglary and the possession of burglary tools.
Their motion to dismiss was denied and trial ensued. At the trial, the two accused did not bother to present evidence to contradict the evidence of the prosecution. Instead, the two accused produced evidence that tended to prove that given the circumstances of the case as these have been proved by the prosecution, the charges of burglary and of possession of burglary tools cannot be sustained. After the trial, the court gave instructions to the jurors that they can either acquit the two accused; or, find them guilty of grand theft; or, find them guilty of the included offense of petit theft.

The jury found the two men guilty of grand theft. To this, the two accused moved for a judgment of acquittal. This motion was also denied and the trial court sentenced the two accused to serve one year imprisonment for the burglary charge; another year for possession of burglary tools and the time that they had served was credited toward the penalty for the charge of petit theft.

The two accused appealed. Their appeal hinges on their contention that no burglary could have been committed as they did not enter the car for the purpose of committing a crime. The only question before the District Appeals Court is whether or not the conviction for burglary and for possession of burglary tools can be sustained given the facts of the case proven at trial.

The Court held that burglary was defined by law as the crime committed when a person enters a dwelling place or a house with the intent of committing a crime. This was the old definition from common law and this has been adapted by the courts in Florida. Later in 1961, the law was amended: burglary was defined as the crime of entering a dwelling place, house or conveyance or motor vehicle for the purpose of committing a crime.

Here, the two accused did not enter the vehicle. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said they stripped the vehicle of its tires and hubcaps. They cannot be said to have entered the vehicle. They did not ride in the Chevrolet. They simply detached the hubcaps; they took a lug wrench and removed the tires of the car. These acts constitute the crime of larceny and not burglary.

The Court quashed the verdict of guilty and the decision of the jury and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Were you charged with burglary, drug possession or sex crimes? You need assistance from a Florida Criminal Lawyer who shall explain to you exactly what the elements of the crime of burglary are. A Florida Criminal Attorney can help raise the issue that the facts alleged by the prosecution or not constitute elements of the crime charged. Come and speak with any of the Florida Criminal Attorneys from Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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