Burglary Defense Attorneys in New Jersey
Burglary Defense Attorneys in New Jersey
According to New Jersey law, burglary involves entering a “structure” without permission for the purpose of committing a theft or another crime. Conviction on burglary charges carries significant penalties. Given the repercussions involved in a burglary conviction, hiring an expert defense lawyer is critical.
Introduction to Burglary Offenses in NJ
The burglary law in the state of New Jersey is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. Subsection (a) as follows:
A person is guilty of the crime of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein or thereon he:
(1) Enters a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof unless the structure was at the time open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter;
(2) Surreptitiously remains in a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so; or
(3) Trespasses in or upon utility company property where public notice prohibiting trespass is given by conspicuous posting, or fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.
The word “structure” can mean virtually any type of building, including a home, a store or other commercial structure, and occupied portions of divided structures, like apartments, hotel rooms, or business offices.
Although this offense is often referred to as “breaking and entering”, a burglary need not involve such a disturbance of the structure; all that is needed is an entry without permission or authority or surreptitiously remaining (hiding) inside.
Elements of a New Jersey Burglary Offense
Three (3) basic elements must be established to prove a burglary charge in New Jersey. The prosecutor must demonstrate that:
A defendant entered a structure:
- Without the permission of the owner or a license; and
- For the purpose of committing a crime.
Again, the entry must be into a “structure” in order for this law to apply. Note that in this regard, motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, mobile homes, boats and airplanes fall within this definition.
The second required proof is that the accused entered the structure without permission. By this definition, places that are open to the public generally cannot be burglarized without some kind of sign or design that indicates that entry is precluded.
The third and final element that must be demonstrated to convict an individual for burglary is intent to commit a crime in the structure. Unlike the breaking and entering offense that used to exist in New Jersey, in order for a person to commit burglary, they had to enter for the purpose of stealing something, damaging property, assault another, or committing otherwise violating the law.
The Charge of Conspiracy to Commit Burglary in NJ
It is critical to bear in mind that you could get convicted of burglary even if you did not actively participate in the entry of the property. If you conspired to commit the crime, you can face charges. An individual conspires or engages in a conspiracy if they enter into any agreement with one or more other people to commit a burglary and take an affirmative step to facilitate the crime. The classic scenario for conspiracy to commit burglary is an employee of a business who helps co-conspirators gain entry into the property of their employer (such as a bank, gas station, jeweler, department store, etc.) by providing the key, alarm code or other form of access. A conspirator faces the same penalties as the person or persons who entered the property.
Degree of The Burglary Offense
Burglary is generally a third-degree crime. The offense is raised, however, to a second-degree for defendants who:
- Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, tries to inflict or threatens to inflict physical bodily injury on anyone; or
- Is armed with or brandishes what appears to be explosives or a deadly weapon.
- “Bodily injury” takes place when someone suffers physical pain, illness or impairment in any way.
“Deadly weapon” is defined as a firearm or another weapon, device, instrument, material or substance capable of producing death or serious bodily injury, or that the victim could reasonably believe to be so capable.
Possible Penalties for a Burglary in New Jersey
The consequences for third degree burglary include 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Second degree can get you 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Additionally, the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) applies under these circumstances, making it a requirement for an individual to serve at least 85% of the prison term imposed before they may be considered for parole.
Defenses to a New Jersey Burglary Charge
Prosecutors need to prove every element of New Jersey’s legal definition of burglary beyond a reasonable doubt to get the conviction. They must demonstrate that the building, or “structure,” was not open to the public and you did not otherwise have the necessary permission or authority to enter or remain inside. Additionally, the prosecution must prove your purpose for being inside was to commit a crime.
As your defense lawyers, if you are being held, we will petition for your release from custody at your first hearing or by successfully defending you at a detention hearing. Then we meet with you to document your side of the story, and investigate further to determine the legitimacy and strength of the prosecution’s case.
Our investigation could reveal evidence that supports motions to dismiss or lower charges, or it can give rise to a legal defense, such as:
- Police misconduct, such as illegal arrest or search and seizure, or neglecting to advise of your Miranda rights
- “Chain of custody” inconsistencies with police or the court’s handling of evidence, like property alleged to have been stolen or a weapon alleged to have been used
- Profiling on the basis of racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, or other bias on the part of authorities or witnesses
- An plausible alibi, such as your ability to establish that you were elsewhere when the incident in question allegedly took place
- Mistaken identity, like in a faulty suspect lineups
- Faulty or unreliable witness testimony
- The property was open to the public at the time the alleged burglary took place
- Your genuine belief you were permitted to enter the property
- Absence of intent to commit an additional crime beyond trespass
- Stress, duress, coercion, inducement by someone else, etc., which led to entering the premises
- Mental impairment (such as intoxication, illness) that precluded the ability to form intent or purpose to commit another crime
Capitalizing on our firm’s long-standing relationships with prosecutors across the state, our lawyers can reach out immediately if there is room to negotiate for lesser or dismissed charges.
Diversion Programs for New Jersey Burglary Charges
On top of finding problems with the prosecution’s case, we can sometimes get charges downgraded or dismissed for clients who have a clean criminal record, remorse, and willingness to remit restitution, such as for property damage. The diversion programs like Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) is a choice for first offenders. Drug Court is an additional avenue to explore for those individuals who have a prior record dotted with drug possession and use.
If a trial is necessary in your burglary matter, the whole legal team of Spodek Law Group is available to prepare a strong and persuasive legal defense.
Get in Touch With a Talented NJ Burglary Lawyer at Our Firm
If you were arrested or face indictment for burglary anywhere in the State of New Jersey, contact Spodek Law Group as quickly as possible and, in the meantime, first exercise your right to remain silent. The criminal defense attorneys on our team have the knowledge, experience, and standing in the legal community to shield you from the potentially severe repercussions of this theft charge, including the possibility of years behind bars.
Don’t face the severe punishment and lasting damage of a guilty verdict or plea to burglary charges without the solid legal defense our lawyers can provide. Contact us right away for a free initial consultation to learn how we can protect you. An attorney is available immediately to speak with you.