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What is Burglary in El Paso, Texas?

Burglary in El Paso refers to the offense of entering or remaining in a building or habitation with the intent to commit a serious offense, including theft, assault, or felony. Entering can occur without actually breaking into the building. Any slight intrusion with a body part or using an object would amount to entering. Also, any such entry or remaining must be without the owner’s effective consent. 

The City of El Paso recorded a total of 1,410 burglaries in 2016 alone. However, burglary occurrences in the city reduced to 1,048 in 2019.

What is the Difference Between a Robbery and Burglary in El Paso?

Robbery and burglary offenses in El Paso differ based on their elements, classifications, and resulting punishments.

First, with respect to their elements, burglary on its part requires an unlawful entering or remaining in someone else's property. Meanwhile, entering or remaining is not an element of robbery. Similarly, while robbery includes the use of force or threat of it against another to commit a theft, a burglary charge does not require proof of force or threat used. While robbery requires proof of actual theft, an intent to commit the offense is enough for a burglary charge to be successful.

Finally, though both robbery and burglary are considered felonies, the minimum punishment for robbery is more serious than burglary. The minimum classification of burglary is a state jail felony punishable with up to two years in jail, while robbery is a second-degree felony punishable with up to 20 years in prison.

The City of El Paso experienced 338 robberies in 2019. 1,048 burglary occurrences were also recorded in the city within the same period. 

How to Beat a Burglary Charge in El Paso

With the assistance of a competent attorney, persons facing burglary charges in El Paso may be able to successfully rely on some applicable defenses to either dismiss or diminish the charge. These defenses include:

  • Alibi: this means that the accused was not present at the burgled building at the time of the crime. To assert this defense, the attorney may introduce supporting evidence to prove the actual location of the accused when the burglary occurred. If argued successfully, the accused may be totally exonerated from the charge. 
  • Lack of intent: a fundamental element of burglary is that the intruder intended to commit a theft, assault, or felony offense. Therefore, it is a defense that the accused never intended to commit a crime.  The defense is commonly applicable where the accused acted based on a mistake of fact, under the influence of substances not voluntarily ingested, or while suffering from a mental illness. 
  • Public access: Entering for the purpose of burglary must have been into a part of a building not generally open to the public. As such, the defense can argue that the element of entering is not satisfied because the place entered is typically open to the public at the time. 
  • Consent of the owner: burglary requires unauthorized entry into a building or structure. Therefore, the defense attorney may establish that the accused entered or remained in the building or habitation with the permission of the owner.

What are the Degrees of Burglary in El Paso?

The punishment attached to burglary charges varies depending on the circumstance of the case. Below is the classification of burglary charges based on the degree of penalties:

  • State Jail Felony: Applies to a burglary on a building that is not a habitation. It is punishable with six months to two years in prison, including a fine of up to $10,000. 
  • Third-Degree Felony: Applies to the burglary of a commercial building with the intent to steal a controlled substance. It is punishable with two years to ten years of incarceration. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. 
  • Second-Degree Felony: Applies to a burglary on a habitation, including a felony theft or assault. It is punishable with a prison term of two to 20 years, which may also include a fine not exceeding $10,000. 
  • First-Degree Felony: Applies to a burglary on a habitation, including other felony offenses besides felony theft. It is punishable with between five and 99 years in prison. The penalties may also include a  fine not exceeding $10,000. 

Residential Burglary vs Commercial Burglary in El Paso

Residential burglary in El Paso occurs when the building, structure, or vehicle burgled is one that is used for overnight accommodation. This is referred to as burglary of habitation under Texas law. On the other hand, commercial burglary becomes a separate charge when such a building contains controlled substances. Burglary of a habitation is a second-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In contrast, burglary of a commercial building with the intent to obtain a controlled substance is considered a third-degree felony that attracts imprisonment of up to ten years, including fines.