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How is burglary different from trespassing?

Burglary and trespassing are two common terms used in the context of property crimes, but they are not the same thing. While both involve unauthorized entry into someone else's property, there are significant differences between the two. Understanding the distinctions between burglary and trespassing is important for both legal and practical reasons, as the consequences for each can vary significantly. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two crimes and the legal implications of each.


Definition Of Burglary- Florida

Section 810.02 of the Florida Statutes explains what it means to break into a house, building, or vehicle. The law says that a burglary can happen when:

  • The defendant enters a home, building, or vehicle that belongs to or is in the possession of someone else, and at the time of entry, the defendant had the intention to commit a crime in the home, building, or vehicle; or

  • The defendant lawfully enters a dwelling, structure, or vehicle (with permission or consent) and stays inside: (a) in secret and with the intent to commit a crime there; (b) after permission to stay inside had been revoked and with the intent to commit a crime there; or (c) with the intent to commit or try to commit a forcible felony inside.


Penalties For Burglary

Regarding burglary in Florida, the possible punishments depend on the facts and circumstances of the crime. Some of the most important things that affect the sentence are the type of building or structure, how the crime was done, and whether or not a weapon was used.


First Degree Felony

Burglary is a first-degree felony that can lead to a sentence of up to life in prison if:

  • Anyone who attacks or hits someone else;

  • Is or becomes armed with explosives or a dangerous weapon inside the dwelling, structure, or vehicle; or

  • Enters an occupied or unoccupied dwelling or structure and: (1) Uses a motor vehicle to help commit the crime, other than just as a getaway vehicle, and damages the dwelling or structure; or (2) Causes damage to the dwelling or structure, or to property inside the dwelling or structure, that is more than $1,000.

Second Degree Felony

Burglary is a second-degree felony that can get you up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, or a $10,000 fine if you don't hurt anyone and don't have a dangerous weapon and you break into or stay in:

  • Dwelling, and there is another person in the dwelling at the time the offender enters or remains;

  • Dwelling, and there is not another person in the dwelling at the time the offender enters or remains;

  • Structure, and there is another person in the structure at the time the offender enters or remains;

  • Conveyance, and there is another person in the conveyance at the time the offender enters or remains;

Third Degree Felony

Burglary is a third-degree felony that can get a person up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, or a $5,000 fine if they break into or stay in a building that is not their own.


  • Structure, and no one else is in the structure when the offender enters or stays

  • Transportation, and no one else is in the transportation when the offender enters or stays.


So, what's the difference between burglary and trespass?


For starters, burglary is a crime that can get you 5 years to life in prison. Why is burglary a much worse crime than theft?

In most cases, burglary starts with trespassing, but the state must also prove that the person entered the house, apartment, or other living space with the intention of committing a crime inside. Trespass does not have that extra feature. Also, neither breaking and entering nor trespassing can be that crime that was meant to have been done. Theft and making trouble are two examples. This is often hard for the state to prove, and a good defense can use that to their advantage.


The punishment will be different depending on what kind of burglary was done. For example, breaking into a building or vehicle that is empty is only a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison or probation.

  • If you break into a home, whether it's empty or not, or a building or vehicle where someone else is inside, you could get up to 15 years in prison or probation.

  • If someone breaks into a house and hurts someone else or gets a gun inside, they could go to prison for the rest of their lives. When someone does this, they usually go into a home or apartment during a fight between family members and hit the other person. Most of the time, this kind of break-in is charged as a break-in with assault or battery. This charge doesn't come with a bond, and you need a special hearing to get out of jail before your trial.

There are other kinds of burglary and trespassing, but the ones we've talked about above are the most common ones. Some of these charges can lead to life in prison, and some of them can't even be bailed out of jail. But you can defend against them and beat them if you do it right.


Common Defenses to Civil Trespass

There are four main ways to get out of trespassing: easement, estoppel, necessity, and consent. An easement is the legal right to use someone else's property when you don't own it. Trespassing is legal if the person who has legal ownership of the property or land gives permission or a license to enter. But in order for this defense to work, the plaintiff must prove two things:

1) They willingly agreed to do something that was meant to hurt them

2) They knew or understood what would happen.


Common Defenses to Criminal Trespass

In the United States as a whole, criminal trespassing is a misdemeanor. In contrast to civil trespass, a criminal defendant cannot be found guilty of trespass unless it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant not only entered the property in question, but also knew it was against the law to do so. In a trespassing case, there are a few common types of facts.

  • First, a large group of cases involve a person who breaks the law by entering a property that is marked with signs that say it is off-limits between certain hours. In these cases, it is a defense that the Government can't prove that the defendant saw the sign. In practice, though, many courts will assume that a defendant saw signs that were well-placed, clear, and easy to see.

  • Second, a big group of cases involve a person who broke the law by going on someone else's property after being told not to. In these kinds of cases, the Government has to show that the defendant knew about the ban. In the United States, this kind of thing happens a lot in public housing projects, where the police or property managers ban people they think have caused trouble there in the past. Once the ban is in place, the police can stop and search these people whenever they enter the property.


In the United States, trespassing charges and property bans are used as a way to enforce the law because the bans give police the right to automatically arrest and search people they think are doing drugs or other illegal things.


  • Third, some trespass charges involve property where it is clear that entering it is against the law because of how it is made.


Contact us for your consultation

If you are accused of burglary or trespassing, you may have ways to fight the charge or avoid the harsh penalties that come with a conviction. Here at the Arroyo Law Firm, we offer complete defense services and inexpensive payment plans to help offenders defend their rights. For a free case evaluation, reach out to us online or by phone at 407-770-9000. Knowing your alternatives won't cost you anything, even if you decide not to hire us.



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