Updated: February 6, 2024 by Sean McQuaid
Here’s the truth- burglary with battery charges or burg/batt are the most overcharged and misused arrests by law enforcement in Pinellas County. I have handled many of these cases and have beaten every single one of them.
But, burglary with battery is still serious and your high bond should send you a strong message to get a lawyer hired. They are first degree felonies and are punishable by up to life in prison! If you are convicted of burg/batt, you will go to prison for a long time depending on the existence and severity of injuries. These charges also carry with them a horrific stigma on one’s criminal record. I can’t even imagine how people who have been arrested for burglary with battery explain the situation to potential employers. The charge truly has life-altering consequences regardless of whether it is even prosecuted. Unfortunately, these arrests are a far too common reality in Pinellas County.
Over the years I have represented numerous first-time offenders arrested on these serious charges for relatively minor incidents. I have come to believe that law enforcement is somehow rewarded for arrests for serious felonies such as this. While there isn’t a quota system among local police, there are too many of these overcharged cases that have led me to believe that there is some type of reward for “padding” these arrests.
Burglary with battery charges are enhanced because I believe the legislature intended to severely punish car-jackers and people who violently kicked in doors to homes and/or forced themselves inside in order to do violence. While those types of incidents still get charged with burg/batt, they are not the norm. The charge has now morphed into any situation when a burglary with a battery occurs; even though the charge is obviously not appropriate or will never be prosecuted as such.
As a criminal defense attorney, I have represented countless examples of people who were arrested for burglary with battery for situations that simply do not warrant a charge that requires prison and is punishable by life. A common example is a person who may have slapped or punched someone through an open car window. I have also seen neighbors argue from behind the front door and when the door is pushed into them an inch or two, this charge gets used. Another final example is domestic-related burg/batt charges. When a significant other used to live at the home and is no longer allowed in, the chances that a door is pushed open is more likely. I have seen more domestic-related burglary with battery arrests than any other type in my career.
What Needs to Be Proven for a Burglary with Battery Charge?
Burglary with battery charges are found under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(a). The elements of the crime are that the defendant entered a structure (usually a home) or conveyance (vehicle) that was in the possession of the victim, with an intent to commit a crime, and in the course committed a battery. The charge is actually relatively easy to prove which is why it is so popular with law enforcement.
Defenses to Burglary with Battery Charges in Pinellas County
One of the main defenses to this charge is that the person who is accused of entering the structure or conveyance had permission to do so. We see this defense used in many of the domestic-related charges.
Another defense is simply that the crime has been overcharged and that there are more appropriate lesser included charges that are more fitting of the allegations. We are often successful in convincing the prosecutor that the crime should be charged as misdemeanor trespass and misdemeanor battery rather than the enhanced burg/batt felony.
Finally, in every case where there is potentially restitution owed, it is wise to have that paid as soon as possible. If a door frame is damaged or there are medical bills, the repayment of those bills can greatly affect the outcome of the case.
Pinellas County Views on Burglary with Battery Cases
The majority of burglary with battery cases in Pinellas County are actually never prosecuted due to the efforts of criminal defense attorneys. Often, the mere arrest and high bond serves as a massive penalty to a defendant in the eyes of the prosecutor. But, the procedure for each cases remains the same. In all burglary with battery cases, a prosecutor is assigned to investigate the cases within about 2-4 weeks after the arrest. It is during this investigation that a decision about what to charge is made by the prosecutor. This is the best opportunity that a criminal defense attorney has to influence the case. I have been quite successful over the years in getting many of these cases dropped at the conclusion of the investigation phase. However, in extreme cases when charges are filed, a defendant is then required to go to court. In these cases, a criminal defense attorney will receive the police reports from the case, review any evidence that may be used and then decide whether to negotiate a plea deal or defend the case with an eye toward trial.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a family member has been arrested with burglary with battery charges or burg/batt, you need to speak to a lawyer. It does not matter if you think the victim will prosecute or not because the decision is up to the prosecutor and there is simply too much to lose. There are many steps that a defense lawyer can assist you with immediately to improve your chances at getting the charges dismissed and keeping your record clean. For example, if drugs or alcohol was a factor in the incident, it is usually wise to start with voluntary counseling and obtaining clean urine screens about every two weeks. You may also want to think about performing voluntary community service to show the prosecutor that you are taking seriously.
Whatever led to the arrest for burglary with battery, there should be something that a local criminal defense attorney can do for the case. Although it may require a lot of work, keeping you out of prison and protecting your record are always our top priority. If you have any questions about these charges or would like to speak to a lawyer, please contact me for a consultation.
Sean McQuaid is President of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid. The firm was founded in 1958 and is the oldest law firm in St. Petersburg. Sean has most recently served as President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a professional association of 1,100 lawyers and judges in the area. If you need a lawyer with the connections and resources to get things done, please contact Sean immediately.