When most people think of burglary, they imagine unlawful breaking and entering or theft. However, these charges could be brought for various circumstances. If you are facing burglary allegations, you need dedicated representation from a skilled attorney to mitigate or avoid serious consequences.
At Adams & Bischoff, a North Charleston burglary lawyer could work with you to build a strong case in your defense. Our legal team deeply understands the criminal system and has years of experience protecting the rights of accused individuals.
What is the Legal Definition of Burglary?
Burglary refers to entering a structure without the owner consent with the intent of committing a crime (e.g., stealing jewelry). Importantly, entering someone else’s property does not require breaking into the place. Crawling through an open window or even opening an unlocked door could count as well.
It is also important to note whether a dwelling or a building is involved in the burglary charges. South Carolina Code of Law, Sections 16-11-10 and 16-11-310(2) defines a dwelling as any place a person uses as living quarters to sleep or protect their property. Persons utilizing such spaces may include owners, tenants, clerks, or security personnel. Also included under the definition of dwellings are other structures within 200 yards of the main living quarters, such as sheds, garages, and barns. A building is anything that does not qualify as a dwelling, such as retail stores, office space, and warehouses.
When defending against burglary allegations in South Charleston, it is important to work with a dedicated attorney familiar with the local criminal system. A seasoned burglary lawyer could create a defense that is tailored to fit the specifics of the charges.
The Three Degrees of Burglary in North Charleston
The South Carolina Code sets out various burglary offenses at Sections 16-11-311, -312, and -313. Each section describes the acts that constitute the crime and the related punishment upon conviction. Whether authorities indict on first-degree (the most serious) or third-degree (the least serious) charges depends on the nature of the property involved and if there are any aggravating factors, such as use of a deadly weapon.
When an individual illegally gains access to a dwelling with the intent of committing a crime, they may be charged with first-degree burglary if one of the following factors is present:
- Possession of a dangerous weapon
- Injury of a non-participant
- Prior burglary or housebreaking convictions
- Breaking in at night
South Carolina does not require that the suspect have the weapon during the alleged burglary to aggravate the charges. If the accused person steals a gun or other qualifying object while committing the crime, they may face first-degree charges. S.C. Code § 16-11-311 mandates that those convicted must serve a minimum of 15 years in prison but allows courts the latitude to sentence defendants to life without parole.
This offense level encompasses two subcategories: violent second-degree and non-violent second-degree. A person entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime without aggravating factors commits non-violent second-degree burglary. Under S.C. Code § 16-11-312(A), they face a maximum of ten years in prison upon conviction.
If an individual enters a building under enhancing circumstances, the prosecutor may charge them with violent second-degree burglary under S.C. Code § 16-11-312(B). Sentencing for this offense includes up to 15 years in prison.
This criminal act does not involve violence and only applies to unlawful entry into buildings rather than dwellings. Those convicted for the first time may face a maximum of five years in prison. For second-time convictions, the maximum increases to ten years.
Regardless of the degree of charges, accused individuals risk significant loss of freedom, payment of court-ordered restitution, and a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their lives. By working with a local attorney experienced in this area of criminal law, a person accused of burglary is better equipped to protect their rights, future, and freedom.
Call a North Charleston Burglary Attorney for Your Defense
South Carolina imposes significant penalties upon those convicted of burglary. If you have been accused of this crime, reach out to a North Charleston burglary lawyer as soon as possible to begin building your defense. At Adams & Bischoff, we have a strong track record of successfully protecting the rights of the accused. Call us today to review your case and get the legal representation you need.