What are the consequences of an aggravated burglary charge?

The consequences of an aggravated burglary charge vary depending on which state is prosecuting the offense. Not every state has a penal code with clearly defined aggravated burglary charge consequences, and most of the time offenders are treated differently under parole laws. Scroll down for more information and get in touch with a local attorney with our free legal tool if you're facing charges.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Many states classify breaking into someone’s property or dwelling as one of two types of burglary: regular burglary, or aggravated burglary. An aggravated burglary charge is considered a more serious offense than a burglary. This means an aggravated burglary carries increased penalties for the crime.

What is considered aggravated burglary?

Not every state has a penal code for the criminal offense of aggravated burglary. State penal codes that specifically set out offenses for aggravated burglaries include Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. Although other states may not provide for a specific aggravated burglary charge, they may still authorize some burglaries to be punished at a higher level due to an aggravating circumstance such as if the burglar possessed a deadly weapon or threatened physical harm to their victims.

As the name implies, aggravated burglary entails the commission of the crime of burglary plus some aggravating circumstance connected to the criminal offense. All of the states that utilize aggravated burglary charges consider the use or threatened use of a dangerous weapon to be an aggravating circumstance. Other stipulations of burglary laws will vary by state. Some will require evidence of a specific intent to commit some bad act. For example, in Kansas, just entry of a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or a sexual assault is enough to be considered an aggravated burglary, even if the sexual assault never occurred. In Montana, Ohio, or Utah, if the victim suffers a bodily injury during a burglary, then the assault will also justify an aggravated burglary charge, and is thus subject to a higher degree of punishment.

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What are possible aggravated burglary punishments?

The punishment for aggravated burglary is far worse than the punishment for simple burglary. For example, a defendant charged with simple burglary in Louisiana can be sentenced to up to 12-year prison terms with or without hard labor, whereas a defendant charged with aggravated burglary will be sentenced to hard labor not less than a year and up to 30 years. Several states have even authorized life sentences for aggravated burglary convictions. Essentially, the prison sentence doubles or triples depending on the state’s sentencing guidelines.

In addition to increasing the range of punishment, an aggravated finding can have other indirect penalties. For example, most defendants who are sentenced for aggravated charges are treated differently under parole laws. This means they must serve more of their time before they become eligible for parole. Second, defendants convicted of burglary with intent to commit a sexual assault can also be required to register as a sex offender. The bottom line is that an aggravated burglary charge can have serious, long-term consequences.

How is an aggravated burglary charge handled?

If you are facing criminal action, understanding how a regular burglary charge can become an aggravated burglary charge is a valuable tool in developing a strategy for how to handle your case, especially when the evidence of the underlying burglary is very strong. For example, if a defendant is charged with aggravated burglary for entering a habitation with the intent to commit a sexual assault, developing evidence that the perpetrator only entered with the intent to commit a misdemeanor theft could be the difference between a defendant being convicted of an aggravated burglary or a regular burglary.

If a defendant cannot beat the burglary charge, they may still be able to mitigate or reduce the punishment range with the help of a criminal defense lawyer by demonstrating to the jury that the aggravating circumstance does not exist. To do this, a defendant should understand the charge of aggravated burglary as it applies in their state and obtain a copy of the offense report detailing the criminal charges against them. From there, a defendant can develop strategies for overcoming the aggravated finding at the court appearance.

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