Comprehensive Guide to Virginia Burglary Laws
Understanding Virginia Burglary Laws
Virginia burglary laws are crucial for understanding the legal implications of breaking into a property with the intent to commit a crime. To provide a comprehensive understanding of these laws, this article will cover the following topics:
- Statutory Definitions and Elements
- Degrees of Burglary
- Penalties for Burglary Convictions
- Defenses to Burglary Charges
- Related Offenses
Statutory Definitions and Elements
Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-89, burglary is defined as the act of breaking and entering the dwelling of another, during the night, with the intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein.
The key elements of burglary in Virginia include:
- Breaking: This involves the use of force, fraud, or intimidation to gain entry into a property. It could be actual or constructive (e.g., through threats or deception).
- Entering: Occurs when any part of the offender's body crosses the threshold of the property.
- Dwelling: Refers to a residential structure or building where people live.
- Of another: The property must belong to someone other than the accused.
- Nighttime: Refers to the period between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.
- Intent: The accused must have the intention to commit a felony or larceny within the property.
Degrees of Burglary
Virginia law classifies burglary offenses into various degrees based on the specific circumstances of each case. These include:
Burglary with intent to commit rape, robbery, or murder
Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-90, burglary involves breaking and entering a dwelling at night with the intent to commit murder, rape, robbery, or arson. It is considered a Class 3 felony.
Burglary with intent to commit larceny, assault and battery, or any other felony
Second-degree burglary, as per Virginia Code Section 18.2-91, occurs when an individual breaks and enters a dwelling with the intent to commit larceny or any felony other than murder, rape, robbery, or arson the punishment is 5 to 20 years in prison. However, the court or jury hearing the case may sentence to 12 months in jail if there are sufficient mitigating circumstances to justify it.
Statutory burglary, as defined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-92, involves breaking and entering a dwelling with the intent to commit any other misdemeanor except assault and battery or trespass or those listed under the previous code sections. It is considered a Class 2 felony if the offender was armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the offense; otherwise, it is a Class 6 felony.
Penalties for Burglary Convictions
The penalties for burglary convictions in Virginia depend on the degree of the offense:
- Class 3 felony: A conviction for breaking into a home or other dwelling house carries a prison term of 5 to 20 years and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 2 felony: Breaking into a home while being armed with a deadly weapon carries a potential punishment of life in prison.
Defenses to Burglary Charges
Several defenses can be raised in response to burglary charges in Virginia, including:
- Lack of intent: The defendant may argue that they did not have the intent to commit a crime within the property.
- Mistaken identity: The defendant may claim that they were wrongly identified as the perpetrator.
- Consent: The defendant may assert that they had permission from the property owner to enter the dwelling.
- Misunderstanding: The defendant may argue that they believed they were entering their own property or had a valid reason for entering the dwelling.
- Presence during daytime: If the alleged offense occurred during the day, the defendant may argue that the nighttime requirement for burglary was not met.
- Lack of evidence: If the prosecution can't present sufficient evidence to prove someone was the perpetrator, they have not met their burden. This is a defense in every criminal case, especially in burglary where often there are no eye witnesses.
In addition to burglary, Virginia law recognizes several related offenses, including:
Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit a Misdemeanor
As per Virginia Code Section 18.2-92, this offense involves breaking and entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a misdemeanor other than trespass or assault and battery. It is considered a Class 6 felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. However, if the accused was “armed with a deadly weapon” this becomes a class 2 felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Possession of Burglarious Tools
Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-94, possession of burglarious tools refers to possessing tools, implements, or instruments with the intent to use them in a burglary, robbery, or other housebreaking offense. It is a Class 5 felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison or, at the discretion of the court or jury, up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Burglarious tools are any “tools, implements or outfit” possessed with the intent to commit burglary, robbery, or larceny. For instance, a lock picking kit could be a burglarious tool or a ski mask depending on how its used.
Trespass, as defined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-119, occurs when an individual enters or remains on the property of another without permission or legal justification. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Understanding Virginia burglary laws is essential for anyone facing charges related to breaking and entering, as well as for property owners seeking to protect their rights. With this comprehensive guide, you should now have a clear understanding of the statutory definitions, elements, degrees, penalties, and defenses associated with burglary offenses in Virginia.
Additionally, it is crucial to consult with an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney if you are facing burglary or related charges. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system, develop a strong defense strategy, and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.