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Defendant in Florida Can Be Convicted of Burglary of Dwelling Even for Empty Building Under Renovations

In Florida, burglary of a dwelling is a serious felony crime. The crime of burglary of a dwelling is committed when a person enters or remains in a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime therein. Burglary of a dwelling is normally considered much more serious than burglary of other structures because a burglary involving a dwelling carries the risk that unsuspecting occupants will be present which raises the risk of violence and other serious issues. However, the Florida legal definition of a dwelling is fairly broad and includes places where people are not likely to be present. A dwelling is defined as basically any building with a roof over it that was designed to be occupied by people. It can also include an attached porch and the immediate area surrounding the main structure.

In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a defendant was charged with burglary of a dwelling after he entered a home that was being renovated and robbed the guy who was putting up the drywall. The criminal defense lawyer argued that it could not be a burglary of a dwelling because the home was being renovated and clearly was not being inhabited by anyone at the time. The court disagreed and allowed the conviction. The law states that whether the building is occupied is not the critical element. Rather, it is the design of the building, and if it is a structure designed to be lived in by someone and it has not been drastically changed to make lodging unsuitable, it qualifies as a dwelling even if no one is occupying it at the time or intends to occupy it in the near future. So, the bottom line here is that if a person enters with intent to commit a crime any place that appears to be inhabited by people, inhabitable by people or originally designed to be inhabited by people, the state can charge that person with burglary of a dwelling.