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Burglary in Washington DC
The definition of burglary in Washington DC involves entering a dwelling or other location to commit a crime. In the District of Columbia, it does not matter whether your entry involved breaking or you entered without breaking. It also does not matter if it was daytime or nighttime. A situation involving these circumstances all falls under the umbrella of the offense of burglary.
Burglary is a serious criminal offense in the District of Columbia and is treated as a felony with mandatory minimum prison time. While some states have laws that contain provisions for up to a third (3rd) degree or even a fourth (4th) degree burglary, burglary in DC is split into only two degrees: first (1st) degree burglary and second (2nd) degree burglary.
1st Degree Burglary
Per DC Code §22–801(a), burglary in the 1st degree involves entering an occupied dwelling or room used as a sleeping apartment in any building with the intent to commit a crime. A basic example of 1st-degree burglary would be climbing into a person’s bedroom through an open window while they were sleeping inside to steal their valuables.
It is important to note that the law only requires intent to commit a crime. Whether you managed to commit the crime does not matter. Following the example above, if you were arrested after climbing into that person’s bedroom but before you could steal their valuables, the prosecutor would still be able to convict you of 1st-degree burglary if they could prove that you had the intent to steal the valuables.
A conviction for 1st-degree burglary in DC carries a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. You may also be fined up to $75,000.
The definition of 1st-degree burglary is relatively narrow, requiring the place to be occupied and be used explicitly as a dwelling or sleeping apartment. If the location is unoccupied or is not a dwelling or sleeping apartment, the offense falls to a burglary in the 2nd degree.
2nd Degree Burglary
Per DC Code §22–801(b), burglary in the 2nd degree broadly involves entering a place with the intent to commit a crime. The term “place,” as defined by the statute, includes the relatively mundane list of “any dwelling, bank, store, warehouse, shop, stable, or other building or an apartment or room, whether occupied or not.” In addition, it also specifies “any steamboat, canal boat, vessel, watercraft, or railroad car,” alongside “any yard where any lumber, coal, or other goods or chattels are deposited and kept for trade.”
An example of 2nd-degree burglary would be breaking into a store after hours to steal inventory, but keep in mind that it is just one example among many. The law defining 2nd-degree burglary covers a great variety of situations, as it is intended to cast a wide net of coverage beyond the relatively specific circumstances involved in 1st-degree burglary.
A conviction for 2nd-degree burglary in DC carries a minimum of 2 years in prison and a maximum of 15 years in prison. You may also be fined up to $37,500.
Armed Burglary in DC
There are several circumstances under which will enhance the penalty for burglary. One such circumstance is committing the crime while armed—in other words, committing an armed burglary.
Under DC law, “armed” means being armed or having readily available any pistol or other firearm (or imitation thereof) or other dangerous or deadly weapons. Examples of a “dangerous or deadly weapon” include different types of guns, any knife, or metallic knuckles—but the list is certainly not limited to those examples. Anything that is used or intended to be used to cause serious bodily injury or death qualifies as a “dangerous or deadly weapon.” The legal definition is broad on purpose to exploit no loopholes.
For the first offense of armed burglary, the sentence for a basic burglary conviction can be enhanced by up to an additional 30 years in prison. However, if a person committed armed burglary with any pistol or firearm, the additional penalty would be a minimum of five years.
For a second or subsequent offense of armed burglary, the maximum additional time in prison is still 30 years, but there will be a minimum additional time of 5 years. If a person committed the armed burglary with any pistol or firearm, the additional penalty for a second or subsequent offense would be ten years instead.
Additionally, there will be no possibility of release or parole for an armed burglary committed using any pistol or firearm before the minimum additional time is served.
Other Special Enhancements to Burglary Penalties in DC
Other special penalty enhancements to burglary apply when the crime is committed against senior citizens (65 years old or older) and citizen patrol members. Burglaryagainst these classes of persons will multiply the maximum penalties applicable—both fines and prison time—by 1.5 times the base amount.
Other unique penalty enhancements to burglary apply when the crime is committed against senior citizens (65 years old or older) and citizen patrol members. Burglaryagainst these classes of persons will multiply the maximum penalties applicable—both fines and prison time—by 1.5 times the base amount.
In a similar vein, a burglary deemed a “bias-related crime”—means a person committed a crime due to prejudice. Whether it’s against a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, or political affiliation—the maximum penalty applicable is multiplied by 1.5 times.
Unlawful Entry in DC
Burglary requires entry into a location with the intent to commit a crime. What about when you enter an area but without the intent to commit a crime?
As an example of this situation, let us say that you were denied entry to a nightclub by a bouncer. If you sneak into the lounge through the back door, you did enter a location (without authorization, too), but there was no intent to commit a crime. You just wanted to join the club.
In that case, the offense you would likely be charged within DC is “unlawful entry.” Under DC law, the crime of “unlawful entry” replaces the more commonly known offense of “breaking and entering.” Per DC Code §22–3302, the definition of unlawful entry (aka breaking and entering) is the entering—or attempting to enter—of any property without lawful authority; or remaining on a property once legal power to do so is revoked.
Unlawful entry is treated as a misdemeanoroffense in the District of Columbia. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 180 days of jail time and up to $1,000 in fines.
The bias-related crime enhancement applies to unlawful entry, multiplying the basic penalties by 1.5 times if the circumstances are applicable.
While there is no unique enhancement for committing unlawful entry while armed, a prosecutor can argue that being armed demonstrates you had the intent to commit a crime, upgrading the offense into a burglary.
Getting a DC Burglary Lawyer or DC Unlawful Entry Lawyer
Navigating burglary or unlawful entry charges can be difficult and stressful, especially when burglary is a felony offense in DC. That is why it is vital to consult an experienced DC Burglary Lawyer or DC, Unlawful Entry Lawyer, immediately if you are facing such charges.
The expert, professional attorneys at Ervin Kibria Law, can help you sort out your options and develop solid, aggressive defense strategies to get your charges dismissed or at least minimize the penalties you face. Contact us today for a free consultation.