Can you be charged with burglary even if you didn’t enter a building or commit the actual act? The answer, surprisingly, is yes… if the jury determines that you were the mastermind behind the burglary. Recently, one Texas woman was not only charged, but convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Below we’re going to tell you her story, detail what the Texas laws state about burglary, and what to do if you are facing charges.
“Mastermind” Gets a 25-Year Sentence
In late September 2016, a man broke into a habitation with a weapon. His trial for burglary is pending, but recently the woman who asked him to do it was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
How did this happen?
The prosecution argued that Sandra Vasquez, 42, ordered Joseph Matthew Tejada, 26, to burglarize a habitation. Despite the fact that her defense lawyers said she did not know Tejada would use a weapon, and that she was using illegal drugs, which impaired her judgment, the jury found Vasquez guilty on the charge of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony.
It certainly didn’t help that she had previously served two years in prison for drug charges, or that new fraud charges are still pending against Vasquez.
Understanding the Definition of Burglary in Texas
Texas laws state that burglary is entering or staying inside a habitation or building without the consent of the owner along with an intent to commit theft, assault, or felony. The structure can be publicly or privately owned for a burglary charge to apply.
Both the unlawful entry and the intent to commit another crime inside that property must be true for a charge of burglary to be valid. If an individual unlawfully enters a habitation but has no intent of committing a crime, trespassing charges may apply, but not burglary charges. However, it is important to note that even if the intended crime inside does not occur, charges of burglary will apply as long as entry and intent can be proven.
You can be charged with the similar crime of unlawful entry by either staying past your allowed time or entering property without consent of the owner. You can also be charged if you hide inside a retail store in order to commit theft after the store closes.
In Vasquez’s case, the prosecutor used the following argument to sway jurors:
“You have the decision to make among yourself that, which one’s worse? The person who gets down and does it, or the person who makes their (moves) in the ivory tower on top … I think the one on top is worse because they’re hiding.”
Penalties for a Texas Burglary Conviction
If an individual burglarizes a building not intended for habitation, the penalty is a state jail felony. If an individual burglarizes a habitation, the penalty is a second degree felony if the individual intended to commit assault or felony theft. The charge is raised to a first degree felony if the individual intended to commit another felony besides felony theft when inside.
If an individual burglarizes a vehicle, the penalty is a class A misdemeanor. Entry occurs if the individual inserted any object or body part inside the vehicle to gain access. However, if the vehicle is intended to accommodate people overnight, such as a recreational vehicle, the charge of burglary of a habitation will apply.
Additionally, an individual can be charged with burglary if he or she breaks into a coin-operated machine or coin-collection machine without the owner’s consent. This is a class A misdemeanor offense.
Burglary penalties can be enhanced if previous charges apply or if the individual burglarized a rail car.
What You Should Do about Your Charges
As you can see, a burglary conviction comes with serious consequences. You need the experience of a skilled Texas criminal attorney to help you fight your charges.
Here are some of the defenses your lawyer may consider using:
- You had permission to enter the habitation or building, so your entry was legal.
- You had no intent of committing a crime when inside, so you lacked intent, which is a necessary component of a burglary charge.
- You were in an open space that cannot be considered a structure, such as a yard or garden.
- You were intoxicated at the time of the incident, which impaired your judgment. This is important, because alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs can prevent you from having intent.
- You have an alibi – or perhaps it is a case of mistaken identity.
- You were coerced into committing the crime under threat of harm, injury, or death.
A skilled Texas defense attorney may be able to reduce the charges to trespassing or petty theft, which come with lesser penalties.
Since many people don’t understand the details of Texas burglary laws, you may have been accused of a crime you didn’t commit. A knowledgeable lawyer will advise you and work hard to protect your rights and your reputation. Reach out today for a free case review.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.