Burglary and Criminal Trespass in Florida

In Florida, any burglary into a home, building, or even a vehicle constitutes a felony. Learn about the penalties for burglary and the related crime of trespassing.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 12, 2021

In Florida, a person commits burglary by entering a building or vehicle intending to commit a crime. It's also burglary to remain in a building or vehicle without permission and with intent to commit a crime. Burglary always constitutes a felony in Florida. The penalty depends on the circumstances involved in the offense. Armed and violent burglaries carry the most severe penalties—up to life in prison.

A person who goes onto another's property without permission but not intending to commit a crime commits the offense of criminal trespass. Criminal trespass carries misdemeanor and felony penalties depending on the circumstances.

Burglary in Florida

Historically, burglary was limited to breaking and entering into a home at night with the intent to commit a felony inside. State laws no longer limit the crime of burglary to only entering homes or committing crimes at night. But many states, including Florida, punish burglaries of dwellings (residential homes) and occupied buildings more severely than burglaries of unoccupied structures, because the risk of harm is greater in occupied dwellings and buildings.

Florida's Definition of Burglary

A person commits burglary in Florida by entering a dwelling (a place designed for lodging), building, or vehicle (can be a car, ship, train car, or aircraft) with the intent to commit a crime inside.

A person also commits burglary in Florida by remaining in a dwelling, building, or vehicle intending to commit a crime, even if the defendant was initially invited in, when the defendant:

For example, a person who attends a party at a house but then hides in a back bedroom, intending to steal the host's jewelry after the guests have left, could be convicted of burglary. (Fla. Stat. § 810.02 (2021).)

What Is an Entry?

A person doesn't need to break down a door or pick a lock to commit burglary. Almost any entry suffices as long as the person enters with intent to commit a crime. However, a person cannot burglarize property that is open to the public so long as the defendant remains in the part of the property that is open. For example, a shoplifter who goes into a store has not committed burglary (only theft). But a person who goes into the employee break room (normally closed to the public) intending to steal purses and wallets could be charged with theft and burglary.

How Does a Prosecutor Prove Intent to Commit a Crime?

How does a prosecutor prove the defendant's state of mind? Unless the defendant confesses to what he or she was thinking, intent must usually be determined by the circumstances. For example, evidence that the defendant entered an apartment in the middle of the night with a flashlight and a knife and was found crawling around tends to show the defendant entered the apartment intending to commit a crime. And even if the defendant doesn't pull off the intended crime, the crime of burglary is complete as soon as the defendant enters into the building or vehicle with the illicit intent.

Penalties for Burglary

In Florida, burglary always constitutes a felony offense.

Armed and Violent Burglaries

The most serious burglaries in Florida—first-degree felonies—involve a defendant who:

  • is armed (or becomes armed) with a dangerous weapon or explosives, or
  • commits assault or battery (hurts or threatens to hurt anyone).

A person also commits a first-degree felony burglary, when the circumstances involve entering a dwelling or building, and the defendant:

  • uses a motor vehicle in the offense (but not as a getaway vehicle) and causes damage to the dwelling or building, or
  • causes more than $1,000 worth of damage to the dwelling, building, or any property inside.

A person who commits an armed or violent burglary faces up to life in prison.

Burglary of Dwellings and Other Serious Burglaries

Burglary of an occupied or unoccupied dwelling constitutes a second-degree felony. A person who cuts or damages phone or power lines to facilitate a home invasion commits a third-degree felony.

Other second-degree felony offenses include burglary of occupied buildings or vehicles, burglary of emergency vehicles, and burglary to steal drugs.

Second- and third-degree felony burglaries increase a felony level when committed during a riot or declared state of emergency and conditions facilitated the crime.

A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The penalty increases to a maximum of 30 years in prison for a first-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Burglaries of Unoccupied Buildings and Vehicles; Possession of Burglary Tools

Burglary of unoccupied buildings and vehicles are felonies in the third degree. It's also a crime to possess a tool intending to use it to commit a burglary or trespass.

A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Enhanced Penalties for Habitual (Repeat) Felony Offenders

Florida law allows increased penalties for felony offenders with two or more prior felony convictions. The enhancement depends on the seriousness of the current offense and the seriousness and number of past offenses.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082 to .084; 810.011, 810.02, 810.06, 810.07 (2021).)

Criminal Trespass

A person commits criminal trespass by entering or remaining on property without permission from the owner. Florida has several trespass laws—each of which protects a different type of property, including:

  • buildings and vehicles
  • land on which "no trespassing" signs are posted
  • areas that are farmed or fenced (such as construction sites), and
  • public and private school campuses.

Felony Trespass

Any trespass committed while armed is a felony of the third degree. The property's owner or tenant may detain and hold an armed trespasser until the police arrive. Trespass of a restricted site (such as a construction site, commercial farm, or agricultural research site) also constitutes a third-degree felony. These restricted sites must have posted signs. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Misdemeanor Trespass

The following offenses constitute misdemeanor trespass.

Occupied or unoccupied. A person who trespasses in an occupied building or vehicle commits a first-degree misdemeanor. If the building or vehicle is unoccupied, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Harm to property. It's also a first-degree misdemeanor to trespass by willfully:

  • going into the yard of a home intending to commit a crime
  • dumping litter on property, or
  • opening a gate or fence or otherwise doing anything that exposes the property, animals, or crops to harm.

School property. Any person who enters or remains on school property without legitimate business is a trespasser. A student who has been suspended or expelled also commits trespassing by going on school property. Both offenses are second-degree misdemeanors. School trespass is punished more severely, as a first-degree misdemeanor, if the defendant remains after being asked to leave by a school official. The law authorizes school officials to detain a trespasser and hold the person until the police arrive.

Penalties. A person who commits a second-degree misdemeanor faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $500. A misdemeanor of the first degree can be punished by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 810.08, 810.09, 810.095, 810.097 (2021).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

A conviction for burglary or trespass can result in time in prison or jail, a fine, and a serious criminal record. If you are charged with one of these crimes, or any crime, you should talk to a Florida criminal defense attorney. An attorney will be able to help you understand the law and how your case is likely to fare in court. An attorney can help you protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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