Burglary is a crime in Houston that occurs when a person enters or remains in a building or habitation, without the owner’s consent and with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault. The crime also covers situations where the perpetrator attempts to or eventually commits the offenses mentioned while entering or remaining on the property. Burglary is typically classified as a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail, including a fine of up to $10,000. However, burglary of a habitation or home is classified as a second-degree felony attracting up to 20 years in prison.
Under the Texas Penal Code, habitation includes any structure or even vehicle where people live or sleep in. Also, an accused can satisfy the element of entry without physically breaking into the structure. Any intrusion into the building, however slight, with a body part or physical object would amount to an entry.
In 2016, the City of Houston recorded 18,488 burglary incidents, representing 18% of the city’s property crimes. Houston burglary numbers reduced to 15,788 in 2020, amounting to a 7% decrease from the previous year’s statistics.
There are notable differences between the classification, elements, punishments, and enhancing factors of robbery and burglary in Houston.
Under the Texas Penal Code, a robbery occurs when a person committing a theft intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury or a fear of it to another. Meanwhile, burglary does not require proof of theft, bodily injury, or a threat of it. Instead, the essential elements of burglary are that the offender enters or remains in a building or habitation with the intent to commit a serious offense, which may include theft.
The distinctions between the elements of the crimes also influenced the classification of the crimes in Texas. As such, robbery is considered a crime against persons. In contrast, burglary is classified as a property crime usually committed to obtain money, property, or some other benefit.
Finally, the respective punishment for the crimes also differs. At the minimum, burglary is charged as a state jail felony and is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and a fine reaching $10,000. However, robbery is classified as a second-degree felony that attracts two to 20 years in prison, including fines not more than $10,000.
Nonetheless, both offenses have their respective aggravating factors that can enhance the penalties to higher degrees of a felony. A burglary will be charged as a first-degree felony if committed on a commercial building, within a habitation premise, containing controlled substances. On the other hand, a robbery charge may be elevated to a first-degree felony if the victim suffered a serious bodily injury, the accused used a deadly weapon, or the victim was elderly or disabled.
Houston experienced a total of 8,757 robberies in 2020. This number is 45% lower than the burglary numbers in the city within the same period.
Being found guilty of a burglary in Houston can have devastating consequences, including incarceration, fines, restitution, and probation. Additionally, since the crime is considered a felony, the accused’s record will be permanently affected, making it difficult to obtain steady employment, secure student loans, or pursue certain career paths. However, by hiring a skilled attorney, defendants can improve their chances of dismissing or reducing a burglary charge. A criminal defense lawyer will usually examine the circumstances surrounding a case to determine the best possible defenses, which may include:
The applicable penalties to a burglary charge depend on the circumstances of the case, including the type of property entered and the crime the accused committed or intended to commit.
Under the Texas Penal Code, burglary can be committed on a residence or in a commercial building, with each occurrence having its respective penalties. The distinction lies in the use of the building or structure in question. As a result, residential burglary under Texas law refers to a burglary committed on a habitation where people live or sleep. On the other hand, commercial burglary can only be committed on a building intended for the purpose of trade. The penalties for burglary on a habitation are severe, and the offense is considered a second-degree felony that attracts up to 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, burglary of a building is typically classified as a state jail felony punishable with up to two years in jail. However, entering a commercial building with the intent to steal a controlled substance is a third-degree felony punishable with imprisonment of up to ten years, which may include hefty fines.