When a person is charged with burglary in Minnesota, implementing the right defense strategy can mean the difference between a non-guilty verdict and years in prison.
Defending Against Burglary Charges
Burglary is defined by law as unlawfully entering a habitation or structure with the intent to commit a crime. In Minnesota, burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Felony burglary charges require an aggressive defense strategy that can disprove guilt by eliminating one or more of the key elements of the crime – criminal intent, motive, the severity of the crime, and victim injuries. Under Minnesota law, a person charged with first-degree felony burglary faces $35,000 in fines and up to 20 years in prison.
When all of the key elements of burglary can be proven, the possibility of a conviction is high. If the burglary suspect was arrested with tools on his/her person or is caught in the act by video surveillance, a guilty verdict is likely. To defend against burglary charges, options may include claiming innocence for the crime, claiming no personal knowledge of the activity, or claiming theft or robbery which carry lighter sentences. Whatever course of action is taken, a criminal defense attorney with the right strategy may be able to get burglary charges dismissed by casting doubt on the key elements.
- Lack of Evidence – The prosecution has the burden of showing evidence to prove criminal intent, motive, and personal involvement in the crime. If there is insufficient evidence or the evidence has been compromised, charges may be dropped.
- Strong Alibi – If there is concrete evidence and/or witness statements that prove mistaken identity or that the suspect was not at the scene of the crime, charges may be dropped.
- Entering the Premises – Burglary charges only apply to certain habitations and structures. If the property in question doesn’t fit the description for burglary under Minnesota statutes, lesser charges may apply. If it can be proven that the property owner gave permission to enter the property, a consent defense can be used.
If pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing or petty theft is an option, penalties will be lighter than burglary. A fourth-degree misdemeanor burglary conviction carries a one-year jail term, but first, second, and third-degree burglary is charged as a felony with prison time from 5 to 20 years.