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Entering A Building By Just a Few Inches Can Be a Burglary

In Florida, it is a burglary to enter a dwelling with the intent to commit a theft or felony therein. A dwelling is not just a residence, but can be any number of structures or vehicles. A person does not have to actually go all the way into the structure. The crime of burglary can be complete just by putting a hand through a window or open door.

In a recent burglary case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant went onto the front porch of a residence and kicked the door causing the door to open and the door frame to break. When the occupant yelled out, the defendant fled. The police were called and arrested the defendant nearby. The defendant was charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling. At the trial, the defendant testified that he just intended to kick the door and run. He said he never intended to enter the home for any reason.

The burglary charge was ultimately thrown out. The state could prove that the defendant’s foot entered the home, if only briefly and by inches, and that was sufficient to establish the “enter a dwelling” element. However, the state also has to prove that the defendant entered the home with an intent to commit some crime inside the home. Sometimes, this element is proven with circumstantial evidence and/or an assumption that, What else would he be doing breaking into a house?, but in this case, there was no evidence to refute the defense that the defendant was just playing a prank on the homeowner by kicking the door. As a result, the state could not prove a burglary beyond a reasonable doubt.