“Car Hopping” Becomes More Prevalent in Early Summer

According to an article in, the crime of auto burglary, or as Florida law labels it, “burglary to a conveyance”, has picked up in Northern St. John’s county.  The article stated  the lasted rash of burglaries to conveyances has occurred at strip centers and even in high end gated communities.  The Florida statute that covers all of this is S810.02(b).  The term “conveyance” according to Florida Law, “means any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.”  The crime of burglary is as old as time.  If one enters a dwelling, structure or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense once inside, that is a burglary. Many of the criminally accused are shocked when they find out that actual entry of the dwelling, structure or conveyance is not required to prove the crime of burglary. As an example, a criminal that goes beneath an off grade  building to cut out copper wiring and plumbing commits a burglary when he touches the building.  Going on a rooftop and kicking the air-conditioner down to the ground so one’s buddies can haul off the metal guts to the unit is a similar example of burglary.  In auto burglaries, the burglary starts when a person touches the car with the intent of getting inside of it and committing and offense.  Sticking one’s arm into a open car window can be a burglary to a conveyance.

The Investigation Usually Covers Several Cars in an Area

Citizens will call in to the police that their car has been broken into, reporting damage and what property is missing.  A patrol officer will be dispatched to the scene and write up the incident report, routing it to other officers in the burglary unit or the auto-burglary task force most large cities have.  Our office has discovered many times that the detective will rely on the patrol officer’s report and never go out to the scene or even look at the first vehicle.  Rarely are the vehicles processed for any forensic evidence such as fingerprints.  The average car burglar will be out at night in a nice neighborhood or apartment complex with his buddies.  Backpacks are worn to haul off loot.  The more hesitant participant will usually be posted as a lookout.  If the patrol officer can get to the crime as it is happening the carhoppers scatter.  Usually one or two of the kids will be arrested and taken to the station for a sitdown with the on-duty burglary detective.  Once sufficiently terrified and worried about their own well-being, they give the detective the names of their buddies.  The police will also work the local pawn shops, craigslist and ebay for stolen goods they can trace back to specific burglaries.  Every person identified as part of the group is subject to being charged with the crime.  This group is also subject to being charged with auto burglaries that occur in other parts of the neighborhood on the same night.  Doesn’t mean they can be convicted of the  charges but it is common for the burglary detective to tag the group members with all reported auto burglaries in a certain geographic area and timeframe.  Again, the detective does this many times without leaving his office.  Again, no forensic evidence is gathered in many cases.Divide and Conquer

With multiple defendants sharing common charges,  the police have the option of  effeciently making their case by “flipping” the codefendants against one another.  Defendants can be charged for breaking into cars they never got near.  Each car can equal a felony charge for every member of the group. Under Florida law, each car equals a third degree felony with a maximum of five years of prison. Each car has an owner who is now a crime victim and will be providing input to the prosecutor about what they want done with the accused.  Should you, a friend or a family member have the above type of scenario at hand, consult with a Jacksonville, Nassau or Clay County criminal defense attorney.  Jacksonville burglary attorney Ray Forbess, Sr., has handled hundreds of burglary cases.  We always offer a free consultation and/or jail visit and can be reached at 904-634-0900.



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