When most people think of the crime of Burglary, they envision the prototypical television character, dressed all in black, breaking into a business by climbing through a window in the middle of the night to steal a diamond necklace. While this television character would most certainly qualify for a charge of Burglary in Nevada, the legal definition in our State is not nearly so narrow. In fact, as outlined below, there are literally hundreds of different scenarios which can lead to the very serious Felony crime of Burglary being charged in our Nevada Courts.What is Burglary?
Under the common law, and today in many States across the U.S., Burglary was usually identified as unlawful entry into a home or business, at night, with the intent to commit a crime inside. Many States limit the intent upon entry to the desire to commit a theft (also called a larceny) while inside. Some states require the physical breaking and entering for the crime of Burglary. (Note: In Nevada, the breaking and entering element allows the State to charge a separate crime, called “Home Invasion” – as described here).
In Nevada, the crime of Burglary has a much broader definition. Our Burglary laws are found in Nevada Revised Statute (“NRS”) Chapter 205, which covers “Crimes Against Property” and specifically defined in NRS 205.060. Nevada defines Burglary as any person who enters any structure (it can be a house, room, apartment, business or any building or vehicle) and enters with the intent to commit larceny, assault, battery, to obtain money or property by false pretenses or any other felony while inside.
Burglary is a very serious charge in Nevada. Burglary is a category “B” Felony and carries the punishment of between 1-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering the crime of Burglary is the entry does not have to be a complete entry and in fact can be extremely minimal. To be charged with burglary, the person accused does not have to walk all the way into the structure, business or building in order to commit burglary. Reaching into an open window or sticking an arm into the back of a pickup truck is sufficient to allow the State to charge Burglary. Additionally, the structure does not have to be occupied at the time for Burglary to occur. Burglary can take place whether the alleged victim is at home or away from the location.Difference between Burglary and Robbery
Oftentimes people confuse the crimes of Burglary and Robbery. Despite the confusion, they are very different crimes in Nevada and each has unique elements. In many instances, Robbery and Burglary are charged in the same case against the same person. While Burglary involves the entry into a structure (such as a home or business) and the intent at the time of entry, in many cases a Robbery can be committed while a Burglary is happening. Under Nevada law the crime of Burglary is complete upon entry. Robbery however, involves the use of force or fear to obtain or retain property belonging to someone else (or the use of force to facilitate escape).
By way of example, assume a suspect enters a convenience store with the intent to pull out a gun and rob the clerk. The moment the suspect steps foot inside the convenience store, the crime of burglary is complete. When the suspect pulls out the gun and takes money from the cash register, the crime of robbery has also occurred. If caught and arrested, the suspect can be charged with both crimes. Each, in and of itself, is a serious category “B” felony.When can the State charge Burglary?
With such a broad and liberal definition of Burglary, the State has the ability to charge this serious crime virtually any time a crime happens inside a business, home, structure or vehicle. In fact, the Nevada Legislature has written laws on the books, in NRS 205.070, that make it clear that if someone commits a separate crime while in the commission of a burglary, that person can be charged with both crimes. In Nevada, this happens all the time. For instance, if someone is arrested and charged with the possession of a stolen vehicle while driving a car that has been stolen, the State will often charge Burglary as well because, as it stands to reason, the driver of the stolen car had to make entry into the car to possess the stolen car. Likewise, if a person enters a bank to cash a forged check, the State will usually charge Burglary as well as forgery for the entry into the bank to cash the bad check. Even if a person enters grocery store with the intent to steal something as trivial as a pack of gum, the fact that they entered with the intent to commit the larceny of the gum means that they can be charged with the Felony crime of Burglary. As you can see, Burglary causes many people, even first offenders who meant no harm to any one person, to be charged with a serious Felony carrying significant prison time.Defenses to Burglary
Because Burglary is such a serious crime, a person arrested or charged with Burglary needs a knowledgeable Nevada Criminal Defense Lawyer who understands the crime of burglary and how best to defend against it. There are numerous defenses available to a person charged with Burglary in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada. In a charge of Burglary, as with any other crime, there are essential elements that have to be proven by the prosecutor before the Defendant can be found guilty. If the Government cannot prove each element, then the Defendant must be found not guilty. The defense that the person charged did not commit one, or all, of the essential elements means that the person is not guilty of the crime. To develop such a defense, the defendant and his counsel must initiate reasonable doubt to jurors that the State has proven the crime. To do so, a competent Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney can cast doubt on the prosecutors case in numerous ways, including the presentation of an alibi (showing that the person charged was somewhere else when the crime was committed), through the cross examination and impeachment of the Governments fact witnesses or through discrediting a scientific or forensic piece of evidence relied on by the prosecution.
If you, or someone you know, has been charged with the crime of Burglary in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada, the deck is already stacked against you. You need someone on your side that has the knowledge, experience and skill to level the playing field. Contact attorney Josh Tomsheck at the law firm of Hofland & Tomsheck and let us start building your defense and fighting your charges immediately.