Florida Burglary Conviction Reversed Where Defendant Stole From Store Open to the Public

In Florida, the crime of burglary involves a person breaking into or entering a place with the intent to commit a theft or other crime inside. The crime of burglary in Florida can get a little complicated based on the type of place that is entered, where the defendant was and what happened once inside. However, what is clear is that a person does not have to break in to be guilty of burglary. Simply going into a place without permission to steal something or commit certain other crimes inside is normally sufficient for a burglary conviction.

However, under Florida law, it is not a burglary if a person enters a place to commit a crime that is open to the public. In a recent burglary case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant entered a 7 Eleven store during normal business hours and stole money after threatening the cashier with a gun. The prosecutor charged him with several crimes including burglary with a weapon (the penalties for burglary with a weapon are more severe in Florida than a burglary without a weapon). The defendant was convicted of this charge, but the criminal defense lawyer appealed.

The conviction for burglary was reversed. It is a defense to burglary in Florida if the place that was entered was open to the public. That was the case here. Since the defendant walked into the store just as any customer would be permitted to do and stayed in an area where customers were allowed to be, it was not a burglary. This looks like a case where the prosecutor overcharged the defendant and wasted state money and resources on an extraneous charge as the prosecutor clearly had other serious charges to file that also come with severe penalties.

However, as stated, the charge of burglary, and the defenses, are not always simple. If a person walks into a store open to the public and steals something, it probably is not a burglary. On the other hand, it can become a burglary if the person goes into an area inside the store that is not open to the public. If the defendant walks into the manager’s office or an area that is designated for employees only and steals something, that would likely be a burglary. If the defendant walks into a convenience store and walks around behind the counter to take money from the cash register, that would likely be a burglary as the area behind the counter is not an area generally open to the public. Whether a crime is a burglary depends on various factors and the circumstances of each offense.

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