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What is Burglary in Austin, Texas?

Burglary in Austin constitutes the unauthorized entry into a structure (public or private) or remaining in a building or residence, with intent to commit, attempting to commit, or committing a crime such as theft or assault.

To be convicted of burglary within this city, both elements of unauthorized entry and intent to commit a crime must be proven by the prosecution or admitted by the defendant. Consent is an important factor in burglary cases, especially when an individual remains on the property after their authorization to be there has expired or entered without consent.

An allegation of burglary may be categorized based on the type of property the defendant was alleged to have entered.

  • Burglary of a building¬†
  • Burglary of a habitation
  • Burglary of a vehicle.

The severity of the punishments for these offenses varies depending on the type and use of the invaded property and other factors that may surround the case. In any case, burglary of a structure or residence is a criminal act, usually prosecuted as a felony.

The Burglary Unit of the Austin Police Department is one of the divisions that investigates crimes against property in Austin. The unit is responsible for investigating residential and commercial burglaries that occur within the city's jurisdiction. In 2019, in conjunction with the city police, the department documented 4,344 burglaries in the city.

What is the Difference Between a Robbery and Burglary in Austin?

Robbery and burglary charges may have the allegation of property theft in common. However, while burglary involves breaking into a property to commit a crime, robbery involves unlawfully taking property through the use of physical force or the threat of physical force. 

Robbery is considered more severe due to the underlying violence involved. Additionally, the level of force required to establish robbery can be as minimal as intimidation to force the victim to surrender their possessions to the perpetrator.

How to Beat a Burglary Charge in Austin

A burglary conviction in Austin has substantial consequences, including fines, incarceration, and a lifelong criminal record. The accused has a right to retain legal counsel to defend their case. Engaging the services of an attorney who will carefully examine the facts of their case and prepare the strongest possible defense can provide some clarity on the expected or possible outcome and reduce the strain of going through a criminal trial. Depending on the facts of the case, the defense attorney may rely on one or more defenses, including:

  • Innocence: This fundamental burglary defense entails persuading the court that the defendant did not commit the alleged offense. It may constitute criticizing the prosecution's evidence or presenting evidence that weakens the prosecution's case. As such, the defendant can throw reasonable doubt on the prosecution's allegations as a defense.
  • Proving consent to enter the property: This defense strategy involves showing that the defendant entered the property with the owner or occupant's permission and that there was no improper breaking and entering on their part.
  • Lack of intent: Because burglary requires the explicit intent to conduct a crime once inside a structure, establishing that the defendant did not intend to commit burglary may be a valid defense.
  • Coercion: The defendant may have a complete defense if they can demonstrate that they were forced to commit the offense by someone threatening them with injury or death.

What are the Degrees of Burglary in Austin?

Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding an offense, a defendant in a burglary case may be charged with several degrees of burglary. Different punishments are imposed for these various degrees, based on the type of property invaded and the offense committed or intended by the defendant.

These include:

  • Burglary of a non-residential building: This crime is charged as a state jail felony, punishable by six months to 2 years in a state jail and/or fines of up to $10,000.
  • Burglary of a person's residence: This crime is a second-degree felony punishable by a prison term of 2 to 20 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. It may also be prosecuted as a first-degree felony when the perpetrator enters with the intent to commit a criminal offense other than stealing or when the individual commits such an offense. This crime is punishable by five years to life imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000.
  • Burglary of a vehicle: This is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $4,000. If the vehicle has been converted into overnight sleeping and housing, it will be regarded as burglary of a habitation, with the associated charges and punishments.

Residential Burglary vs Commercial Burglary

Residential burglary and commercial burglary in Austin are both types of property crimes that entail unlawfully entering or remaining in a location with the intent to commit an offense while there. However, their differences are found in the location where the crime was committed and in the time period during which an entry is declared illegal.

A person can be charged with residential burglary if they commit a burglary offense in a residential structure or any structure fitted for overnight lodgings, including a vehicle, building, or dwelling where a person lives or sleeps overnight. On the other hand, a commercial burglary occurs in a commercial structure, including a vehicle, building, or structure used for trade, business, education, entertainment, etc.

In addition, the time of day an entry may be ruled unlawful varies according to the offense. Illegal entry into a residential property can occur at any time of day or night, provided the perpetrator enters the property when the owner has not permitted them to be there or has been asked to leave the property. However, in commercial burglary, a person is judged to have unlawfully entered or lingered when they do so outside of work hours.