In general, the crime of burglary is described as the breaking and entering into a structure with the intent of committing a theft or some other type of felony offense therein.
Although this description is used as the standard definition for burglary crimes, each state has also adopted its own unique criminal statute to identify, define, and classify the crime of burglary. Thus, no two states use the same statute, which often results in varying outcomes for state burglary cases.
Some states also separate burglary crimes in accordance with the kind of structure or dwelling that a defendant attempted to break and enter into (e.g., office buildings, schools, houses, motor homes, etc.). Other states may apply the term to all structures.
In addition, some states, such as the state of Texas, will create different categories of burglaries based on whether the defendant attempted to burglarize a structure or a motor vehicle. As such, a defendant who commits burglary in connection with a motor vehicle in Texas will likely be charged with the crime of burglary of a vehicle.
To learn more about burglary charges in Texas and the specific crime of burglary of a motor vehicle, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who practices law in the Texas county where you reside for further legal advice.
How Is the Burglary of a Vehicle Defined in Texas?
In Texas, the crime of burglary of a motor vehicle is defined in the following manner:
- An individual unlawfully breaks into or enters either:
- A vehicle, or
- Any part of a vehicle;
- Without consent or permission from the owner of the vehicle; and
- With the intent to commit theft or any other felony crime therein.
The prosecution must be able to prove the three elements mentioned in the above list beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to prove all three elements in accordance with this standard, then the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime of burglary of a vehicle in Texas.
As an example of how this definition may apply, a defendant may be charged with the crime of burglary of a vehicle in Texas if they smash the driver side window in a vehicle without the owner’s permission in order to steal the radio.
What Does “Enter Into” Mean Regarding Burglarizing a Vehicle?
According to the Texas State Penal Code, the term “enter into” is defined under the burglary of a vehicle statute as:
- An intrusion into a motor vehicle using either:
- Any part of a defendant’s body to enter a motor vehicle, or
- Any physical object that is connected to the body of a defendant to enter the vehicle in question.
For example, the defendant may have used their elbow, foot, or some other body part to smash the windshield or a car window in order to gain entry into a vehicle.
Alternatively, the statute also says that the defendant will meet the definition for “enter into” if they used a physical object that is connected to their body to gain entry to the inside of a vehicle. For instance, if the defendant picked up a crowbar, baseball bat, or some other physical object and then used it to jimmy locks or smash parts of the vehicle to access its interior.
Can I Be Charged with Breaking into a Vehicle If the Owner Gave Me Consent?
It is important to note that an individual cannot be charged with breaking into a vehicle if the owner of the vehicle gave them permission or consent to do so. This is because obtaining permission or consent from the vehicle’s owner would negate one of the elements of the crime. Therefore, the prosecution would not be able to prove their case.
Is This Charge a Misdemeanor in Texas?
A defendant can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony offense for committing the crime of burglary of a vehicle in Texas. Whether a Texas defendant is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor offense will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- The facts surrounding a particular case;
- Whether the defendant has a prior criminal record or has previously been convicted of this same crime; and
- Whether the defendant carried out any of the additional actions that transform this offense into a felony crime under the Texas statute for burglary of a vehicle.
Does Burglarizing a Vehicle Have a Minimum Sentence?
In Texas, the crime of burglarizing a vehicle is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. This means that if a defendant is convicted of burglarizing a vehicle in Texas, they can potentially receive a sentence that includes the following:
- A punishment of jail time for up to one full year to be served in a county facility;
- A criminal fine for as much as $4,000 maximum; or
- A combination of both penalties.
In addition, the Texas crime of burglarizing a vehicle will also carry a minimum sentence if the prosecution can prove at trial that the defendant was previously convicted of this same offense under a specific section in the Texas statute. In this instance, a Class A misdemeanor will carry a minimum jail sentence of at least six months.
However, it should be noted that this six-month jail term may extend for even longer since it only accounts for the bare minimum penalty that can be issued for this crime.
Can I Be Charged with a Felony for Burglary of a Vehicle?
It is possible to be charged with a felony for burglary of a vehicle. This can happen when a defendant has been convicted of burglarizing a motor vehicle two or more times in the past. In such a scenario, the defendant’s charges will be raised from a misdemeanor offense to that of a felony.
Another instance in which a defendant may be charged with a felony offense for burglary of a motor vehicle is when the vehicle that the defendant breaks and enters into is a rail car. A rail car is a train with a single compartment, as opposed to a railway car which is a standard train that has multiple compartments.
One final way that a defendant can be charged with a felony when committing this offense is if they unlawfully break into or enter a vehicle with the intent to commit theft of a controlled substance without the vehicle owner’s permission. Alternatively, the defendant can also be charged with a felony if the vehicle they broke or entered into is operated or owned by a wholesale distributor of prescription drugs. Both will be considered a third-degree felony.
Should I Contact an Attorney for Help with My Case?
If you are facing charges for burglary of a vehicle in Texas state, then it is strongly recommended that you hire a local criminal attorney in Texas as soon as possible. A Texas criminal attorney who has experience in handling cases that involve burglary of a vehicle charges will be able to advise you of your rights as a Texas criminal defendant under the applicable state statutes.
Your attorney can offer guidance on the best way to proceed with your case. Your attorney can also assist you in developing a solid defensive argument against your charges and can provide legal representation in criminal court. In addition, your attorney can determine whether there are any other defenses that you can raise to help get the charges against you either completely dropped or partially reduced.