Have you or a loved one been arrested and charged with burglary, or believe a charge imminent? You need to consult an attorney as soon as possible and being developing a game plan. This is a very serious charge that is closely related to Theft. Here is a short primer on burglary.

What Does Burglary Mean? It’s not the Same as Robbery

Texas law on burglary has its roots in English common law. Many people use burglary and robbery interchangeably. However, they are different and distinct charges. Robbery means taking property from someone by force in their presence. The essence of burglary is rooted in its sister crime, criminal trespass. In Texas, burglary means:

To enter a building or a home without permission or consent from the owner of that property and while committing theft, a felony, or an assault, or intending to commit a theft, a felony, or an assault.  

The resident doesn’t have to be there. As a matter of fact, if the resident is there, you’ve probably got an even bigger charge, aggravated robbery. Most of the time, the felony that a person commits or intends to commit is felony theft. It doesn’t matter if you don’t take a thing. It only matters if you intend to do so. It doesn’t matter if you don’t break a window or kick in a door either. Technically, if any part of your body or any object you are holding—such as a flashlight—crosses the threshold of the building, you may be charged with burglary.

I recently had a case in which my client entered his neighbor’s garage in the evening, which was open, and stole several bottles of alcohol from his garage refrigerator. He was charged with burglary of a habitation, although he pled to a much lesser charge. The charge underscores that burglary is taken serious and pursued aggressively by law enforcement.

Burglary of a Habitation

Burglary of a Habitation carries severe penalties. Burglary of a habitation is a Second Degree Felony, and second degree felonies range in punishment from two years to twenty years in prison. 

However, it can become a first degree felony if the defendant went into a home with the intent to commit a violent felony. This is aimed at preventing violent crimes. A first degree felony ranges in punishment between five years and ninety nine years in prison.

Burglary of a Building

Because the law protects people where they live, burglary of a building is a less severe crime. Burglary of a building is a state jail felony, and state jail felonies range in punishment between 180 days confinement in a state jail facility and up to two years in a state jail facility.