Who Can the State List as the Owner of the Premises in a Burglary Case in Florida?

In Florida, it is a burglary to enter the premises of another with the intent to commit a theft or other felonies. In order to prove a burglary case, the state has to prove the owner of the premises. The state cannot just prove that the defendant did not own the premises; the state has to prove who did own the premises at the time of the burglary. Of course, this is fairly easy and straightforward when the burglary is of a person’s home or automobile. However, when the burglary is of a commercial property, determining the owner of the premises may be more difficult.

The Florida courts changed the law years ago to allow the state to allege that the manager on duty is the owner of the premises for the purposes of a burglary charge,. The idea is that the manager has lawful control of the premises so he/she can be listed as the owner in a burglary case.

However, criminal defense lawyers should watch for a situation where the state lists an employee of the business as the owner. When the police respond to a burglary of a business, they often only get the name of whomever reports the crime or is present when the police arrive. The prosecutor may never get the name of an owner or manager and/or may not know the law requires the prosecutor to state the name of the owner or manager in the burglary charge. If the state files a burglary charge involving a business and lists an employee as the owner, or someone else who is not the owner or manager of the business, the state cannot prove a case of burglary because all of the essential elements are not met. The criminal defense lawyer should move for a judgment of acquittal after the state fails to provide evidence of the owner or manager of the premises.

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