While there may be an element of theft involved in a burglary, Arizona state law does not use the terms interchangeably. Burglary can simply involve unlawful entry of a commercial or residential structure without actually stealing any possessions. Theft, on the other hand, must involve the actual taking of property. Burglary relates specifically to buildings, such as commercial properties or houses (and vehicles in certain cases).
A skilled team of attorneys has an array of possible defenses, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, it could be proven that you were lawfully entitled to enter the premises. Another defense is to show you had no intention of committing a crime; you may have mistakenly entered the wrong building, or you were forced to commit the crime. Therefore, if you committed a burglary while being threatened, this can be used as a defense.
If you are caught with the tools of burglary, the prosecution will try to prove you had intent to commit the crime. These tools can include a pry bar to force open locks or a master key that helps you unlock doors. It is possible to be sent to prison when found in possession of these tools even if you never actually attempted the crime of burglary, because the intention is clear.
None of the classifications are minor charges, as they are all considered felonies. Third-degree burglary is a class 4 felony with a minimum 18-month jail term. Second-degree burglary is a class 3 felony with a minimum 30-month jail term.
First-degree burglary is a class 2 felony with a minimum sentence of four years when committed against a residential structure. When the premises is nonresidential or a fenced-in area, it is a class 3 felony with a minimum 30-month prison term. In severe cases, you could be sentenced to 10 years for first-degree burglary. In certain cases, being caught in possession of the tools of burglary is deemed to be a class 6 felony and can result in a minimum four-month jail sentence.
Burglary is given one of three classifications in Arizona:
- Third-degree: unlawful entry into nonresidential structures, fenced-in areas, or vehicles (with the tools of burglary) with the intent to commit a theft or felony.
- Second-degree: unlawful entry into residential structures with the goal of theft or committing a felony.
- First-degree: either of the above classifications when using a deadly weapon.
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