Houston Robbery and Burglary Attorney
In the Texas legal system, robbery is defined as the act of stealing from a person, and burglary is defined as the act of stealing from a habitation, business or automobile. These are serious criminal charges that can be considered either a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on many factors. Additionally, Texas law enforcement personnel, including judges and district attorneys view misdemeanor burglary of a motor vehicle as a gateway crime to higher levels of burglary. Houston theft attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss explains more about Robbery and Theft.
When most people think of a robbery, they imagine a scene from the movies in which a bad guy goes into a bank, points a gun at the teller, and demands money. While this certainly qualifies, it also includes behavior that many would see as more minor crimes, such as pushing a woman down and grabbing her purse.
There are two elements that must be present in order for a crime to be considered robbery:
- Something stolen from a “person or presence”, and
- The use of force or violence
The first element means that the robber took the item directly from or in the presence of the owner. An example of stealing from a person would be physically taking someone’s wallet from them. An example of stealing in someone’s presence could be a robber locking a store clerk in a backroom, then taking money from the cash register. The victim is nearby while the crime is being committed, but the robber is not taking directly from the victim.
The second element that must be present is the use or threat of force. This can include:
- Hitting, kicking, pushing, grabbing or using any other physical force against the victim.
- Grabbing the property away from the victim.
- Threatening the victim.
- Putting the victim in fear of bodily harm.
A robber does not necessarily have to cause physical harm or explicitly say they will hurt you to fulfill this requirement. A person who points to his pocket to imply he has a weapon, for example, would qualify as a threat of violence.
What happens if I’m convicted of robbery in Texas?
The crime of robbery is considered a second degree felony in the state of Texas. If you are convicted, you will potentially face between 2 and 20 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000.
This punishment can increase if you are convicted of Aggravated Robbery. Factors that could lead to a crime being considered aggravated robbery include:
- Causing serious bodily injury
- Using or exhibiting a deadly weapon
- Causing injury or threatening injury or death to a person who is over 65 years old or disabled.
Aggravated robbery is classified as a first degree felony and can include up to 99 years in prison and $10,000 in fines if convicted.
There are two elements of a crime that must be present for it to qualify as burglary:
- Unlawfully entering or staying in a structure
- Intending to commit a felony, theft or assault inside
For a conviction, the prosecution must prove that these two elements were present. The intended crime does not need to be committed, but the intention to commit it must be proved.
Unlawfully entering: This can include one of two things – either breaking into a structure you don’t have permission to enter, or staying in a property after the time you were allowed to be there has passed. The structure could be a home, a business, a car or any other type of structure, whether private or public property.
An example of unlawfully entering a structure would be breaking a window and entering someone else’s home. An example of unlawfully remaining in a structure would be going into Walmer during their hours of operation, then hiding somewhere until the store has closed so that you can steal merchandise.
Intention to commit a felony, theft or assault: This element of burglary refers to the person’s state of mind when he or she entered the structure. The defendant must have planned to commit one of these crimes and entered or stayed in the structure for that purpose. The crime he or she intended to commit doesn’t have to be completed for it to be considered burglary.
For example, a person illegally enters someone else’s home for the purposes of stealing a television. Upon entering, the homeowner’s large dog scares the person away before he can actually take the TV. Even though he has not committed theft, he intended to — and therefore could be charged with burglary.
What happens if I’m convicted of burglary in Texas?
The level of punishment for a burglary conviction depends on the circumstances of the case.
Burglary of a building that is not a habitation, meaning a place someone lives, is considered a state jail felony and carries a penalty of 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Burglary of a habitation, also known as home invasion, is considered a second degree felony. The penalty for a second degree felony is 2 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. This crime can also include breaking into vehicles that are used for overnight habitation, such as a camper trailer or a recreational vehicle (RV).
Burglary of a vehicle, which refers to breaking into a vehicle that is not used as a habitation, is a class A misdemeanor with potential penalties of up to a year in jail and fine of up to $4,000. Unlawfully inserting any body part or object connected to the body into a vehicle can qualify as burglary of a vehicle. This includes sticking a coat hanger into an open car window to unlock it so you can steal items from the car.
Criminal trespass is similar to burglary in that it involves intentionally entering private property without the owner’s consent. It can refer to acts such as entering a home, or being on someone’s private land without their permission. The crime differs from burglary because it does not include the intention to commit a felony, theft or assault.
As a class B misdemeanor, criminal trespass carries potential penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If the crime was committed in a habitation, such as a home or a shelter center, it increases to a class A misdemeanor and carries a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines.
The police want to interview me about a robbery/burglary. What should I do?
If the police suspect you of committing a crime, they may ask you to come in for an “interview” to clear up your story. There are two things to remember in this situation:
1) This is not an interview, it’s an interrogation, and they are looking for a confession. Law enforcement officials have many ways of producing confessions from even those who are innocent. Despite what you may think from watching cops shows on TV, many of these tactics are completely legal. The officer can lie, saying they have evidence that doesn’t actually exist. They may say they have a witness when they don’t. They can say they will reduce the charges if you confess, or make it seem like it’s not a big deal and as long as you admit to the crime, you’ll be OK. Don’t fall for these tactics!
2) The best way you can protect yourself is by not giving a statement and asking for an attorney. For many people who are innocent of the crime they’ve been accused of, the first instinct is to explain your side to clear up your story. Oftentimes, the more you say the more likely you are to say something that can be considered a confession — even if you are innocent. The best advice is to say nothing at all until you speak with an experienced burglary and robbery lawyer.
How can a lawyer help?
Many burglary and robbery cases rely on witness testimony. Your attorney should review all eyewitness testimony for accuracy and merit. If a witness has made false statements, or honestly misidentified you as a suspect, your attorney should fight hard to have your charges dismissed.
Police procedures (notably search and seizure) should also be reviewed to determine if evidence was illegally obtained. If police misconduct is found, your attorney should aggressively fight to have evidence suppressed and charges dismissed.
Contact Us for a Thorough Evaluation of Your Case
As a former prosecutor, Houston theft lawyer Lisa Shapiro Strauss understands how district attorneys approach robbery and burglary cases. She will evaluate your situation from every angle to determine the best course of action. She is known throughout the legal community as an aggressive trial attorney, dedicated to protecting her clients’ rights.
To learn more about the defense of robbery, burglary, armed robbery, or breaking and entering charges, we urge you to contact us today.