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What is Burglary in San Antonio, Texas?

Under the Texas Penal Code, burglary is classified as an offense against property in San Antonio and throughout Texas. A person commits burglary when they enter a residence or building that is not open or accessible to the general public under the following circumstances:

  • The individual enters the building intending to commit a crime
  • The individual enters the building without the express or implied approval of the proprietor.

Under the law, a burglary may occur in a habitation, a structure, or a vehicle. The law describes habitation as a structure or vehicle adapted to provide overnight shelter. Additionally, a building or structure is described as an enclosed structure designed for use as a dwelling, business, trade, or production. Finally, vehicles include devices that allow a person or property to be transported in the usual course of trade.

A conviction for burglary in San Antonio is punishable by hefty fines and imprisonment since it is regarded as a significant property crime in the city. Nonetheless, depending on where and how the burglary was committed, the legislative framework applies varied penalties and punishments.

Overall, the charges for burglary can range from a Class A misdemeanor, a state jail felony, a second-degree felony, to the most severe accusation of burglary, a first-degree felony.

Over the last five years, San Antonio has seen a steady decrease in property crimes, including burglary. The San Antonio Police Department reported 11,722 cases through the Uniform Crime Reports in 2017. They recorded 9,118 burglary offenses in 2018 and 8,172 in 2019. The crime statistics further declined in 2020, with 7,606 reported burglary offenses and 5,778 reported so far in 2021.

What is the Difference Between a Robbery and Burglary in San Antonio?

In general, burglary and robbery are property crimes that entail the unlawful taking of another's property without their permission. While burglary involves entering a building or other premises without authorization to commit a crime, robbery is defined as taking or attempting to take something from another person using force, the threat of force, or intimidation. 

Furthermore, burglary does not always involve theft, and it frequently occurs when the victim is absent from the scene. On the other hand, robbery always involves the presence of a victim and the taking of property using force or threat. As a result, Robbery is categorized as a violent crime under  San Antonio's criminal justice system.

Robbery offenses are frequently punished as felonies and can result in serious punishments such as extended jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. When a weapon is used, the offense might be elevated to aggravated robbery, with more serious consequences.

Generally, robbery is prosecuted as a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and a maximum jail sentence of not less than two years and not more than 20 years. If any of the following aggravating conditions are present, robbery charges may be escalated to the level of a first-degree felony:

  • The perpetrator caused significant bodily injury to another individual
  • The perpetrator used or displayed a lethal weapon
  • The perpetrator caused physical injury or threatened bodily injury to a disabled person or a senior individual who is above the age of 65.

Unlike regular robbery charges, aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony. It is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and a prison term of 5 to 99 years in or life imprisonment, or a combination of both penalties.

How to Beat a Burglary Charge in San Antonio

There are several essential defenses available when facing a burglary charge. Defendants facing burglary allegations have the right to retain the services of a San Antonio criminal defense attorney whose skills and experience will come to bear in raising applicable and suitable defenses for the accused.

Even in cases when these defenses are insufficient to defeat a burglary allegation totally, they may be sufficient to reduce the charge to one of criminal trespass. Criminal trespass is classified as a Class B misdemeanor and carries a much less severe punishment than any other sort of burglary.

The defense strategy adopted may include raising one or a combination of the following:

  • A claim of innocence: The defense may poke sufficient holes in the prosecution’s case during trial and cross-examination that raises reasonable doubt on their case. They may also demonstrate that the accused could not have been identified at the crime scene because they were somewhere else by presenting evidence of an alibi. 
  • Participation by coercion: In this case, the defendant asserts that they were coerced into performing the burglary by being persuaded to do the crime when they would not have done so otherwise. This might include asserting and presenting proof that the defendant was coerced into participating in the crime under threat of bodily harm.
  • Lack of intent to commit crime: Typically, the prosecution will have to demonstrate that the defendant had the intent to commit a crime upon entering the property. However, the defense can argue that the prosecution was not able to demonstrate intent by submitting questions or evidence that raises doubt on the intent of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime.  
  • The property was open to the public: This defense to the burglary crime comprises an acknowledgment that the accused gained entry into the premises. But it also entails the assertion that the property was open to the public. In this case, the prosecution may be able to prove a less serious misdemeanor crime of stealing, but they may not be able to prove burglary.

What are the Degrees of Burglary in San Antonio?

There are different degrees, charges, and penalties of burglary in San Antonio depending on a host of factors, including if the crime was committed in a vehicle, building, or habitation. 

Burglary Habitation Charges

Burglary of a habitation  occurs when an individual:

  • Enters a residence or any component of a building that is not open to the public with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault
  • Remains concealed to commit a crime.

 In San Antonio, burglary habitation is classified as a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. 

Building Burglary Charges

This violation happens when an unauthorized person enters a building or occupied structure with the intent of committing a crime while inside. Burglary of a building is a serious offense typically tried as a second-degree felony. If convicted, a defendant faces a sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Vehicle Burglary Charges in San Antonio

This violation occurs when a person enters a vehicle without the effective agreement of the owner and with the intent of committing any crime or theft. In this case, the offense is classified as a misdemeanor (when the vehicle is not used as a habitation). The associated penalties include a fine of no more than $4,000 and up to 1 year in county jail.

But, if the vehicle was adapted as a habitation, the charge would be elevated to a felony.

Overall, the offenses will be charged as follows:

  • State Jail Felony: If the crime was committed in a building other than a residence. On conviction, the offender will face a sentence of six months to two years in a correctional facility as well as a fine of up to $10,000 
  • Second Degree Felony: If the crime was committed in a habitation. This is punishable by 2-20 years in a prison facility and a maximum fine of $10,000
  • First Degree Felony: If the offense was committed in a habitation, and there was proof of  the intent to commit a felony other than felony theft, it is punishable by 2 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Residential Burglary vs Commercial Burglary

The most significant distinction between residential and commercial burglary is the location of the offense. Residential burglary or home invasion occurs when a perpetrator enters a property designed for overnight lodging. In contrast, a commercial burglary happens when a perpetrator enters a structure other than a residence, often a place of business.