Can I Be Charged with Burglary for Entering an Empty Building?

Generally defined, burglary occurs when someone enters a place with the intent to commit a crime while there. For example, say you’re going into a house to steal someone’s laptop. Your actions could be considered an offense under the burglary law. This statute applies whether or not the building was occupied at the time you entered it.

However, that’s just a general look at Florida’s law. Various nuances apply, and depending on why you entered the building, you could be charged with a lesser offense such as trespassing.

Let’s look a little closer at the laws on burglary and trespassing.

What Is Burglary?

Florida Statute 810.02 specifically states that a person commits burglary when they enter a building, dwelling, or conveyance for the purposes of violating some other law while there. In the example given at the beginning of this blog, the intended crime was to steal someone else’s property, and people often assume that burglary is a theft crime. However, the law says that it is illegal to enter a place to “commit an offense therein.” It doesn’t specify the type of offense, so intending to commit any kind of crime could be considered burglary.

Under Statute 810.02, it is also illegal to remain in a building, dwelling, or conveyance:

  1. Secretively, and with the intent to commit an offense while there;
  2. After someone asked you to leave, and you still intend to commit a crime; or
  3. With the intent to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony

What if the Dwelling or Structure Is Empty?

Even if no one is in the dwelling or structure when you enter it, if you go there to commit a crime, you’re breaking the law. The level of charges you face depends on the specifics of your circumstances.

If you enter an unoccupied building and use a car to commit the intended crime and cause damage to the property, you’re looking at a first-degree felony charge.

It is a second-degree felony to enter an unoccupied dwelling but not a structure.

You could commit a third-degree felony for entering an unoccupied structure to carry out another offense.

What’s the difference between a dwelling and a structure? A structure is a permanent or temporary building that has a roof on it. A dwelling is a place – whether mobile or immobile, permanent or temporary – that has a roof and people can live in it at night.

What If I Didn’t Intend to Commit a Crime in a Building?

Entering a building without permission and remaining there after being asked to leave is still an offense. You might not be charged with burglary, but you could be with trespassing.

Under Florida Statute 810.08, entering or remaining in a structure or conveyance when people aren’t present is a second-degree misdemeanor.

If people do happen to be there, you could be committing a first-degree misdemeanor.

For Legal Help, Call The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A.

If you’ve been charged with an offense in Seminole County, our lawyers will fight hard toward a favorable outcome on your behalf. We have over 30 years of combined experience and know what it takes to get charges reduced or dropped.

Speak with us during a free consultation by calling (407) 326-0650 or contacting us online.