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Know the elements of burglary so you can fight these charges

Burglary charges are life-impacting charges because of the prison time, fines and social stigma associated with them. These aren't charges that are going to just go away. Instead, people who are charged with burglary have to build a strong defense. When you are working on a burglary defense, start by determining if you can negate at least one of the required elements for an action to be considered burglary.

There are three elements that have to be present. One is that you didn't have authorization to enter the structure. If you actually had permission, or honestly thought that you had permission, you might be able to negate that point. For example, if you entered a home that belongs to a friend, you might be able to argue that your friend told you to feel free to use the home whenever you wanted. If the friend never told you that the offer was revoked, you can use that in your defense.

Another element that has to be present is that the structure was occupied. You could fight this point if the building was actually empty. For example, if you enter an abandoned home, you likely didn't commit burglary.

The final element is intent. Why you entered the structure matters. Using the abandoned house example, if you entered the home while you were intoxicated to have shelter from the rain and didn't have another place to go, you likely didn't commit burglary because you didn't have the intent to commit a crime.

Alternatively, you might be able to proclaim your innocence if you have a defense based on not being at the scene. For example, if the incident occurred in Virginia but you were in Tennessee at the time, proving you were in Tennessee could be your defense.

Determining your defense involves thinking carefully about all of the options. Once you do this, you can work on shoring up your defense.

Source: FindLaw, "Burglary Defenses," accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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