In New Jersey, burglary is considered a non-violent crime, as opposed to robbery, which is seen as a violent crime. Garden State courts consider burglary to be a crime against property and not against a victim who would be threatened with force. Even so, burglary charges have serious consequences, with either three, five, or even ten years in prison, depending on the circumstances and whether a deadly weapon was used. If you have been accused of burglary, you want the toughest and most knowledgeable attorney on your side. Don’t delay and contact a Mercer County criminal defense lawyer who will fight by your side every step of the way.
How is Burglary Defined?
Burglary in New Jersey has three elements, which the prosecution is required to prove. They are:
- Breaking and entering
- Into a building or otherwise occupied structure
- With the intent to commit a crime
However, please keep in mind that the prosecution might still be able to prove other charges related to the events of your case. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer regarding the most likely outcome in your case.
Typical Burglary Defenses You Ought to Know
Now let’s cover some well-known defenses a lawyer may use to protect your rights in a burglary case.
- Actual innocence: Perhaps the most obvious defense is arguing that you never did the behavior of which the prosecution is accusing you. When it comes to burglary charges, the prosecutor needs to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you are guilty. The court should believe that the only reasonable explanation for what happened is the explanation being offered by the prosecution. If the court has any plausible doubt, then under this standard of proof, they ought not to convict.
- It Isn’t What It Seems: On the other hand, your lawyer may argue that you did, in fact, do the behavior alleged by the prosecution. With this defense, your lawyer will then turn and say that the prosecution is leaving out some detail which would make the behavior different from how the prosecution is presenting it. For example, your lawyer may put forth that while you did enter a building, it was not breaking and entering because you reasonably believed you had permission to enter. Note that this argument doesn’t mean you needed to be right in your belief, only that the belief itself was reasonable.
- Lack of Intent: This kind of defense may end up with a less-than-ideal result for you, but given cases with certain sets of facts, it may be the only option helpful to a defendant. Here, your lawyer would argue that you did not have the intent to break, enter, or steal. A burglary charge requires intent, so without that element, the prosecution’s strategy may fall apart.
However, sometimes the argument might be that you lacked intent because you were intoxicated with alcohol or with controlled substances, and hence weren’t even able to form an intent. Your lawyer might say that you lacked intent because of mental distress, illness, or disability. These arguments carry a sense of ableism if not carefully articulated, but again, there are situations where this can offer you the least severe sentence possible.