Maryland Criminal Defense For Shoplifting And Burglary Charges
There are few things more humiliating than being arrested for a crime, such as shoplifting. Many people plead guilty, hoping the charge will just go away. Unfortunately, pleading guilty will have the opposite effect, resulting in a permanent criminal record. To minimize the impact of the arrest on your life, you should talk to an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.
Shoplifting less than $100 in merchandise is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. However, the potential consequences quickly escalate if the items you are accused of taking are more expensive. Shoplifting $100 to $1,000 in merchandise is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $500 fine. Shoplifting more than $1,000 is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The value of the item you are accused of stealing is determined by its retail price, not what the store paid for the item.
If this is your first shoplifting offense, you may be eligible for probation before judgment, which can resolve the charges without the stigma of a conviction. If you successfully complete the terms of the probation, you can answer “no” if you are on a job interview.
What Is Considered Burglary In Maryland?
Burglary is often confused with theft or robbery, but it’s actually a unique criminal charge. Per Maryland law, burglary is going into a dwelling, home, or other structure with the express intent of committing any crime, not just theft.
So, if law enforcement catches an individual someplace they are not permitted to be and have reason to believe that a crime was intended – from simple vandalism or theft to arson or even murder – they can charge that person with burglary.
Burglary’s legal definition is so large and covers such a wide range of different scenarios, that Maryland laws have broken possible burglary charges into four different types, or “degrees.”
What Are The Different Degrees Of Burglary Charges In Maryland?
There are four different degrees of burglary that a Marylander can be charged with, along with a few “ancillary,” or related, charges.
As a rule when it comes to “degrees” of crimes, the “lower” the number, the more severe the charge. So, we’ll start from fourth-degree burglary and work our way up to first.
Fourth-degree burglary, or breaking and entering, is when someone is caught on someone else’s property, usually having arrived there through some amount of force, and who plans to steal something. It’s the least severe charge possible but can still result in jail time.
Third-degree burglary is very similar to fourth-degree burglary, but with two very specific distinctions:
- It requires the victim’s “dwelling” to be involved; and
- The defendant can be accused of intending any crime, not just theft.
Second-degree burglary ramps up the accusations and seriousness of the crime. First of all, to be charged with second-degree burglary, there must be a “storehouse” involved, not someone’s home or “dwelling.”
The defendant must also have broken into the building with the intent to commit more serious crimes such as arson or a “crime of violence,” which could include assault or murder. Second-degree burglary charges are also issued if law enforcement believes the defendant wanted to “steal, take, or carry away a firearm.”
First-degree burglary is similar to second-degree burglary, but involves the defendant’s intended crime of violence or theft to take place at the victim’s dwelling.
Related burglary charges include:
- Burglary with destructive device – if a defendant is accused of opening or trying to open a “secure repository” (think a bank safe or a locked trunk) using a “destructive device” while committing burglary
- Breaking and entering into a research facility – if the defendant is accused of breaking and entering to steal or destroy research; and
- Possession of burglary tools – if a defendant is accused of having a “burglar’s tool” to break into a car – or if they’re in a car and intending to steal either it or other property.
What Happens If You Are Convicted Of Burglary?
Maryland sentences vary according to the “degree” of burglary committed and what prosecutors believe the convicted defendant’s intent was at the time of the crime.
However, even the lowest degree of burglary still includes substantial jail time.
- Fourth-degree burglary is a misdemeanor with up to three years in jail.
- Third-degree burglary is a felony with up to 10 years in jail.
- Second-degree burglary is a felony with up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, depending on the circumstances.
- First-degree burglary results in a felony conviction of home invasion, with up to 25 years in jail, depending on the circumstances.
- Burglary with a destructive device is a felony with up to 20 years in jail, with sentences from other convictions being able to run separately from this one.
- Breaking and entering into a research facility is a felony with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Possession of burglary tools convictions are a misdemeanor, with the defendant being labeled a “rogue and a vagabond” – we’re not kidding – with up to three years in jail.
How Can A Criminal Lawyer Defend Burglary Charges?
As with many of Maryland’s criminal codes, the defendant’s “intent” must be proven by prosecutors to be criminal in nature. That is, to press charges of higher degrees of burglary, a prosecutor must prove that the accused’s intent was to commit theft, arson, or other crime.
Proving intent is notoriously difficult. Maryland law (technically) shouldn’t care about coincidences or appearances. Instead, it should rely only on facts of the case and proof, not possible bias or misinterpretations.
The main job of a criminal defense lawyer with a client charged with burglary is to force the prosecution’s case to the brink, where it cracks if they can’t sufficiently prove intent or the other aspects of the crime. (If, indeed, any crime was committed at all.)
A criminal defense lawyer can also negotiate with the prosecutor’s office, often lowering or even eliminating jail time for their clients by demonstrating that the original severe charges were not merited.
Whether that is possible in your case, however, is yet to be seen. You can consult with a criminal defense lawyer to see what might be possible in your burglary charges, and how we would defend you against possible bias or
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