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What is Burglary in Dallas, Texas?

Burglary in Dallas is defined as the offense of unlawfully entering or remaining in any structure with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault. A burglary conviction can also ensue without proof of intent if the offender acts or threatens to conduct a felony, theft, or assault after the unauthorized entrance.

A burglary may occur in a building, structure, or habitation. A habitation is any structure or vehicle that may be utilized for an overnight stay. Similarly, an accused might be found to have entered a building even though there was no actual breaking in. Any physical incursion into the building with a body part or physical object would be considered an entry.

In 2016, the City of Dallas recorded 10,948 burglary incidents, representing 24% of the city’s property crimes. The numbers reduced to 6,369 in 2019 and increased again to 7,417 in 2020. 

What is the Difference Between a Robbery and Burglary in Dallas?

The offenses of burglary and robbery in Dallas usually include allegations of theft. However, there are notable differences between both crimes. First, one of the fundamental elements of a burglary charge is unauthorized entry into a building or habitation, but this element is not required to prove a robbery case. Similarly, robbery involves the use of force or fear against another person in order to obtain property, whereas burglary does not require the use of force. As such, robbery is usually considered a crime against a person, while burglary is classified as a property crime. Finally, robbery includes actual theft. Meanwhile, burglary only requires the intent to commit an offense. 

Besides the differences in the elements of the crimes, the penalties for both crimes vary depending on the circumstances of each case. However, at the minimum, burglary is usually treated as a state jail felony attracting up to two years in jail, while the least serious offense of robbery is a second-degree felony that attracts a maximum of 20 years in prison. Penalties for both crimes may also include fines reaching $10,000. 

Dallas Police Department recorded a total of 3,292 robberies in 2020. The city recorded 9,917 burglary occurrences within the same period. 

How to Beat a Burglary Charge in Dallas

To beat a burglary charge, the accused would need to present a defense. Presenting a successful defense may require the assistance of a competent criminal attorney that would examine the facts of the case and present applicable arguments in the accused’s defense.

Alibi is one of the most effective defenses against a burglary charge. To rely on this defense, the defense attorney may provide supporting evidence or witnesses to prove that the accused was somewhere else when the burglary occurred. 

Similarly, the defense may also argue that the accused lacked the intent to commit a crime. One of the fundamental elements of burglary is that the intruder intended to commit a crime. Therefore, it is a defense that the accused acted based on a mistake of fact, involuntary intoxication, or mental illness. Entry without intent to commit a crime may, however be charged as the offense of criminal trespass. 

The defense may also argue that the accused did not enter the building or habitation in question. For the element to be satisfied, the entry must have been into a building or a part of it not open to the public. As such, merely walking around a public area in a building may not amount to entering.

Finally, an entry for the purpose of a burglary conviction must have happened without the effective consent of the owner of the building. Hence, where the accused was permitted to be in the building or habitation by the owner, then a conviction for burglary may not ensue.

What are the Degrees of Burglary in Dallas?

Burglary convictions carry varying punishments depending on the facts of each particular case. This variation in punishment is expressed in the degrees or classification of the offense, which include:

  • State Jail Felony: Attracts six months to two years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Applies to a burglary on a building that is not a habitation. 
  • Third-Degree Felony: Attract imprisonment ranging from two to ten years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Applies to the entering of a commercial building with the intent to steal a controlled substance. 
  • Second-Degree Felony: Attracts prison term of two to 20 years, a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both. Applies to a burglary on a habitation, including a felony theft or assault.
  • First-Degree Felony: Attracts five to 99 years in prison, which may include a fine of up to $10,000. Applies to a burglary on a habitation, including other felony offenses besides felony theft. 

Residential Burglary vs Commercial Burglary in Dallas

In Dallas, residential and commercial burglary are treated separately and carry different punishments. However, under the Texas Penal Code, residential burglary is commonly referred to as burglary of a habitation. That is burglary committed against a residence or any structure or vehicle adapted for such use. Likewise, commercial burglary in Dallas is only a separate charge where such a building contains controlled substances. Commercial buildings for this purpose include pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, nursing facilities, or warehouses.  Burglary of a habitation is considered a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, entering a commercial building with the intent to steal a controlled substance is a third-degree felony punishable with imprisonment of up to ten years, including fines.