Many Georgia residents are likely familiar with the term burglary. In popular parlance, the word is often conflated and used interchangeably with terms like robbery and theft. Technically, however, these are words used to describe different, and discrete, categories of crimes. Though all would fall under the general heading of property crimes, there is a legal distinction between being charged with burglary or robbery.
Burglary is a term used, in general, to describe the entering of a place (usually an enclosed space, as opposed to a field or empty lot) with the intent to do something wrong. Specifically, in Georgia, burglary is defined in state code section 16-7-1. The statute divides burglary into first and second degrees of seriousness, but both share the same basic elements. These are the unauthorized entry of a structure of some sort, like a building or vehicle, with the intent to commit a felony or theft. The main difference between first and second degree burglary is the use of the structure entered. A first-degree burglary is committed when a person enters the dwelling of another, whereas a second-degree burglary can be an unauthorized entry into a structure intended for any use.
The main difference in punishment for first and second degree burglaries is the maximum sentence prescribed. In a first-degree burglary, upon conviction, one can be sentenced to between one and 20 years in prison, whereas conviction for the second-degree version of the crime is between one and five years. These maximums can be increased if the individual is convicted of the crime more than once.
The crime with which a person is charged can make a difference in how the state will attempt to prove the case, as well as how the individual's defense should be handled, as well as the potential consequences. Like all felonies, burglary charges are serious, and should be approached as such by Georgia residents.