Charged with Burglary of Motor Vehicle in Fort Worth, Texas?
Are you or someone you know facing a burglary of a motor vehicle charge in Fort Worth, Arlington or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas? If so, you need an experienced Fort Worth Criminal Lawyer to make sure you do not become a victim of the criminal justice system.
It is critical that you hire a team of criminal defense attorneys in Fort Worth that specialize in criminal defense and have a proven track record of success fighting burglary of vehicle cases. The Fulgham Law Firm is a team of former prosecutors that have handled thousands of criminal cases in Fort Worth and Tarrant County area and has successfully defended hundreds of burglar cases. We stand ready to build a strong defense on your behalf.
What Is Burglary Of A Vehicle In Texas?
In order to understand the Texas criminal law definition of burglary of a vehicle, we must refer to the Texas Penal Code. Texas Penal Code § 30.04 states that a person commits the offense of Burglary of a Vehicle if the person without the effective consent of the owner:
Breaks into or enters a vehicle or any part of a vehicle with intent to commit any felony or theft.
Under the Texas Penal Code, to “enter” means to intrude any part of the body or any physical object connected with the body.
Let us examine a few common questions people ask regarding burglary of a motor vehicle:
Is it possible to be arrested for burglary of a vehicle when you didn’t steal anything?
Yes! Texas law does not require that anything be stolen in order to be arrested and convicted for burglary of a motor vehicle IF the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had the INTENT to enter into the vehicle to commit a theft.
For example: a police officer pulls up on someone sitting in a car digging through the center console and looking through belongings. The officer learns that the individual in the car did not have consent to be in the car but nothing was stolen. Can the police officer arrest in this situation? Yes. A police officer will believe they have probable cause to show that a burglary of a vehicle was taking place if the person did not have consent to be in the car and they were digging through items of value. Additionally, if someone appears to be fishing a hanger into a car to enter it and they do not have consent from the owner, a police officer will believe they have sufficient probable cause to make an arrest for burglary of a vehicle.
Can someone be arrested for burglary of a motor vehicle when they never entered the vehicle?
Technically, yes. As described above, the definition of “enter” can include any object connected with the body entering the vehicle. If someone breaks a window or forces something through a window or through an open window with the intent to commit theft, the definition of burglary of a vehicle would technically be met under Texas criminal law.
Is Burglary Of A Motor Vehicle A Felony In Texas?
For a first-time offender, NO! For a first-time criminal offense of burglary of a vehicle, you will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by a term in the county jail of up to 1 year and up to a $4,000 fine.
However, if it is proven at a jury trial that the accused has two or more prior burglary of a motor vehicle convictions, they will be facing a state jail felony charge, punishable by a term in prison of not less than 180 days and not more than 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Finally, if it can be proven at trial that the accused burglarized a vehicle that was owned or operated by a wholesale distributor of prescription drugs and the actor breaks into or enters that vehicle with the intent to commit theft of a controlled substance, the accused could face a third degree felony, punishable but a term in prison of up to 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
Legal Defenses To Burglary Of A Motor Vehicle In Texas
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with the crime of Burglary of a Motor Vehicle, you should immediately hire an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal defense attorney with the ability and track record to give you the best chance at a dismissal of your burglary charges. After hiring a criminal attorney, you should then begin to research Texas law regarding your possible legal defenses so that you will be prepared to partner with your criminal defense lawyer to beat your case. Let us examine a few common defenses that may be successful in the defense of the crime of burglary of a vehicle.
Lack of Criminal Intent
In order to prove the crime of burglary of a motor vehicle, the prosecutor will be required to prove the element of intent beyond a reasonable doubt. If the accused has entered into someone else’s vehicle without their consent, the police and the prosecutor will have to point to specific evidence establishing the individual’s criminal intent. Merely being in the vehicle is not necessarily, by itself, evidence of intent to commit theft or other felony.
How does the police and prosecutor establish criminal intent? The most common way for the police officer to establish criminal intent is to question you about the incident. If the officer can get you to start talking, he can take your words and fashion them into probable cause. Think about it – if you admit you were in the car but don’t have a good enough answer as to why, the police officer will create a report stating that you “appeared flustered and guilty due to a lack of a sufficient explanation for being the vehicle.” Remember, you always have a right to remain silent! You do not have to speak to the police. Never assume that because you are innocent that you can convince the police officer to let you go! Other evidence the police look for in establishing criminal intent is what you were looking at while in the vehicle, the relation you have to the owner of the vehicle and any information the owner of the vehicle may provide.
Consent Of The Owner
This legal defense may seem obvious but if you had previously received consent to enter into the vehicle and it was reasonable to believe you had consent to enter into the vehicle again, the prosecutor may not be able to prove the crime of burglary of a motor vehicle. In this instance, you should provide all the evidence you have of prior instances you were given permission to enter the vehicle or the relationship you have with the owner. For example, if you have text messages, video, emails or other evidence establishing your reasonable belief that you had consent to enter into the vehicle, you should provide this to your criminal attorney to establish reasonable doubt regarding the element of consent.
You Did Not “Enter” Into The Vehicle
An essential element of the crime of burglary of a motor vehicle is that you “entered” into a vehicle. As discussed earlier, “enter” means to intrude any part of the body or any physical object connected with the body into the vehicle. However, it is common for many police officers to see what they believe is “suspicious” activity and jump the gun on an arrest for burglary of a vehicle.
For example: what if a police officer approaches a parking lot and sees someone standing by a car and walking around it looking inside the windows? Additionally, what if the person is pulling on the door handle or touching the windows? Obviously, a police officer will deem this suspicious conduct and will approach. However, without any specific evidence of the individual intruding any part of their body or a physical object connected with the body into the vehicle, the crime of burglary of a motor vehicle will not be completed. Now, there may be an argument for the lesser crime of attempted burglary, but the element of “entering” must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the State of Texas.
Can A Burglary Of A Motor Vehicle Case Be Dismissed?
Although every case is unique and must be evaluated by an experienced attorney, it is the responsibility of every experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to fight to get their client’s case dismissed. How does this happen? Let us examine a few ways a burglary of a motor vehicle case can be dismissed:
- State of Texas Fails To Meet Their Burden Of Proof – as mentioned earlier, the State of Texas must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove each element of the crime provides your criminal defense attorney leverage to demand a dismissal of the charge. The defenses and nuances of the law mentioned above should be used by your criminal attorney to show the prosecution that a criminal case should not be pursued.
- Dismissal With Conditions – if you are a first-time offender, your criminal lawyer may be able to negotiate a conditional dismissal of your burglary of a motor vehicle charge. This type of resolution involves the prosecutor agreeing to dismiss your charges in exchange for you completing certain conditions, such as: community service, classes fitting the crime, donation to a charity, clean drug tests, etc.
- Not Guilty Verdict – if your criminal attorney is dealing with an unreasonable prosecutor or there is a disagreement on the strength of the case, you always have a constitutional right to a trial by jury. Your criminal attorney can fight on your behalf and cross examine witnesses and show your side of the story in an attempt to convince the jury you are not guilty. The Constitution provides that a jury must reach a unanimous verdict and failure to be unanimous in the verdict results in a mistrial. A not guilty verdict is a complete exoneration and will make you eligible to have your arrest and case records immediately expunged from your criminal record.
Fort Worth Burglary of a Vehicle Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with Burglary of a Vehicle in Fort Worth, Arlington or in Tarrant and surrounding counties, you need a skilled attorney with experience. At the Fulgham Law Firm P.C. my goal is to prevent jail time and to achieve a result that makes sure you can someday clear your record.
At the Fulgham Law Firm P.C. you will find a Fort Worth criminal law practice focused on passionately defending the accused. You will have the opportunity to team up with a criminal defense law firm with a team of six attorneys with over 80 years of criminal law experience and over 500 criminal jury trials in the courts of Tarrant County, Dallas County and other courts in North Texas. Contact my Fort Worth office now at 817-886-3078 for a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Fort Worth criminal attorney.
Contact our fort worth criminal lawyer for a free, no-strings-attached, confidential consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in the Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas. Our criminal defense attorney will help you fight for your rights and assist you in making informed decisions about your case. Contact us today to learn more! We handle cases in Tarrant County and surrounding cities: Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, Kennedale, Everman, Benbrook, Lake Worth, Azle, River Oaks, Burleson, Blue Mound, Crowley, Saginaw, White Settlement, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Keller, Colleyville, Grapevine, Southlake, Watauga, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Westlake, Pantego, Dalworthington Gardens, Haltom City, Weatherford, Aledo, Cleburne, Granbury, Decatur.
Fulgham Law Firm P.C. 4354 W. Vickery Blvd, Fort Worth, Texas, 76107 Tel: (817) 877-3030 | Fax: (817) 877-3032