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What are possible criminal defenses when accused of burglary?

Thinking back over a person’s life, most are taught from a young age that theft and stealing aren’t acceptable behaviors. Most people, at some point or another usually during childhood, experience a situation in which they steal or take something from a business or another person that doesn’t belong to them and are then reprimanded for it. While we may all know that burglary, a form of theft, is a crime one may not know that there are legitimate defenses against such a criminal accusation. Criminal defenses stem from blowing holes in a prosecutions strategy to prove the three elements of burglary and thus that a crime was committed.

Elements that must exist to be convicted of burglary consist of the unauthorized breaking and entry into a building or occupied structure with intent to commit a crime inside. All of these elements must be present in order to convict a person of burglary. Two common strategies against burglary consists of actual innocence strategies or affirmative defense strategies. They are two very different strategies, so it’s generally accepted not to mix the two strategies into one criminal defense of such a theft & property crime.

In actual innocence criminal defense strategies, the defense attempts to show that a person accused of the crime is actually innocent and did not commit the acts he or she is accused of. The criminal defense strategy then attempts to place a reasonable doubt in jurors or a judge’s mind that the accused is not the responsible party for the alleged crime. Affirmative defense strategies are different in that they affirm that the accused may have committed one or more of the elements present to be convicted of burglary but negates one or two of the elements which would then disprove the prosecution’s claim of burglary. For example, the accused ‘may’ have broken into the business and entered but had no intent to commit a crime once inside the premise.

Since intent to commit a crime must exist in order to prove that burglary was committed, this could successfully dismiss the criminal accusation in the eyes of the judge or jury. Criminal defenses can vary based on a person’s specific circumstances but these are two tried and true methods of criminal defense. Specific circumstances surrounding the incident can help one to choose one or the other, or perhaps a different route entirely. It is possible to create a criminal defense strategy against burglary accusations.

Source:, “Burglary Defenses,” Accessed May 7, 2018

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