“CAR HOPPING” IS A BURGLARY, TAKE A GUN FROM CAR, IT’S ARMED BURGLARY

Several Car Burglaries Reported in St. Johns County

Recent news stories detail the arrest of a 14 year old boy in regards to several car burglaries in St. Johns County.  The 14 year old can’t be named because juvenile names are not allowed to be disclosed under Florida law.  The 14 year old has been charged with armed burglary to a conveyance and grand theft.  The 14 year old currently remains in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Department.  A 17 year old co-defendant is currently on the run at this time. The News4Jax story states that the 4-5 vehicles broken into were all unlocked, and firearms along with other personal items were stolen.  It is often known by car burglars that people keep firearms, laptops, tablets, and other high end electronics in addition to cash and change inside of their vehicles. A separate news story published by the Florida Times Union details the concerns of law enforcement in regards to car burglaries.  The title of the Times Union Story says it at, “Sheriff: Guns stolen from unlocked cars may be contributing to violent crime.”  It is quite often that law enforcement officials blame car burglars for supplying guns to criminals on the street.

Crime of Opportunity

Most Car Burglaries are very similar in nature.  They are often committed by juveniles, often times with more than one juvenile at a time, in upper scale neighborhoods or apartment complexes, with the vehicles being found unlocked.  When these type of cases come into play, a group of juveniles get together and walk a neighborhood, going car to car, checking door handles to see if the vehicle is in fact unlocked.  Once an unlocked vehicle is located, the juveniles will “toss” the vehicle to take anything of value.  It is common that in a single neighborhood, the juveniles will locate several cars during the night to break into.  The tough question for law enforcement and state attorneys is proving which vehicle was broken into by which juvenile.  This can be proven by which property if found on which juvenile, where the juvenile is taken into custody, and what the juvenile tells law enforcement when caught.  The simplicity and low cost of surveillance cameras have also assisted law enforcement in the arresting of people breaking into cars.  The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has even given images to several news outlets in an attempt to help locate the 17 year old still on the run.

The Laws in the State of Florida

Burglary crimes are defined by Florida State Statute 810.  There are several different layers of statute 810 that determine how one can be charged with Burglary once arrested.  Under Florida Law Burglary means to enter or remain in a dwelling (home), a structure (building other than a dwelling like a business or school), or a conveyance (car), with the intent to commit an offense therein.    The State of Florida is required to prove that an individual not only unlawfully entered a Dwelling, Structure, or Conveyance, but the individual had the intent to commit a crime once inside.  The most common crime committed during a Burglary is theft, commonly referred to as stealing.  In the recent news stories, law enforcement and the State of Florida must prove that the 14 year old entered into a conveyance, with the intent to steal items within.  Based on the 14 year old possessing several personal items from within the cars, the State will build their case.

The part that gets tricky for juveniles out car hopping is when they come across a gun inside of a vehicle, and decide to take that gun.  The stakes jump astronomically when this happens.  Under Florida Law, Burglary is a felony of the third degree, if, in the course of committing the offense, the offender does not make an assault or battery and is not and does not become armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive and the offender enters or remains in a: Structure or Conveyance and there is not another person in the Structure or Conveyance at the time of the offender enters or remains.

All of that legalese boils to the simple entering into a car even if unlocked, and taking of any property these young juveniles face a third degree felony, which if an adult would be facing a maximum of five years in Florida State Prison.  This is per car, each car carries its own five year sentence if convicted.  What the juveniles or even adults never think of when entering the car and finding a gun or other dangerous weapon, is how severely the Florida Law will work against them.  Burglary is a felony of the first degree, punishable by life imprisonment, if, in the course of committing the offense the offender: makes an assault or battery upon any person; or is or becomes armed within the dwelling, structure, or conveyance, with explosives or a dangerous weapon.

It is usually pretty clear the intent by individuals charged with burglaries to conveyances is to break into cars and find whatever we can that is worth money.  However, once inside of a vehicle the individual finds a gun, with no prior intent to steal a gun, the opportunity presents itself and the individual steals the gun.  This simple sentence explains how Florida Law can sneak up on you.  Your case just jumped from a maximum of five years in prison to a potential life sentence!  All because you broke into a car to steal whatever you can find, and it happened to be a gun.  No one plans on this drastic jump in punishment.  Further pursuant to Florida’s 10/20/Life law, the State Attorney’s Office in their discretion may file a 10 year minimum mandatory on any individual who actually possessed a firearm during the commission of the Burglary.  If 10/20/Life is filed against you on an Armed Burglary, you would be facing a sentence of ten years, day for day, with no early release, up to life in prison.  This is certainly a law that this writer does not agree on that the Legislature has enacted to be tough on gun crimes.  For breaking into a car, with no intent to steal a gun, one could be facing ten years to life, it does not seem like the punishment meets the crime.

 

What Should you do if you are Facing Burglary and Theft Related Charges

If you, a loved one, friend, or neighbor are facing Burglary or Theft related charges either as a juvenile or an adult you need to hire a competent criminal defense attorney. Should you, a friend or a family member have the above type of scenario at hand or have a pending warrant for a Burglary or a Theft related case, consult with a Jacksonville (Duval), Nassau, Baker, Bradford, St. Johns and Clay County criminal defense attorney.  The Jacksonville based Forbess Law Firm, has handled countless numbers of burglary and theft cases involving Armed Burglary, Burglary to a Dwelling (occupied and non occupied), Burglary to a Structure, Burglary to a Conveyance, Burglary with A Battery, Burglary with an Assault, Burglary Causing Damage in Excess of $1000, Grand Theft, Petit Theft, Employee Theft, Schemes to Defraud, Utterings, Worthless Checks, all the way from that simple pack of gum up to extremely complex White Collar Fraud cases.  We always offer a free consultation and/or jail visit and can be reached at 904-634-0900.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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