What is Burglary in the First Degree in Arizona?

A.R.S. § 13-1508 criminalizes burglary in the first degree in Arizona. Burglary, otherwise known as “breaking and entering” occurs when a person “enters or remains” on a property unlawfully “with the intent to commit a theft or felony therein.” Many people associate burglary with stealing, but in fact the intent to commit any felony can trigger a burglary charge. It is also irrelevant whether the theft or felony was actually successfully completed. All that is required to be charged with burglary is for the defendant to have the “intent” to commit the crime.

Burglary in Arizona is divided into first- second- and third-degree burglary. This article discussed first degree burglary, which is the most serious type of burglary offense. Burglary in the first degree occurs when somebody enters a structure of fenced yard (the structure or yard may be either commercial or residential) with the intent to commit a theft or felony, while possessing a deadly weapon.

A.R.S. § 13-1508 Defined

Under Arizona’s theft laws, a person commits burglary in the first degree by

  • (1) Committing third- or second-degree burglary and
  • (2) Knowingly possessing explosives, a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument in the course of the burglary.

Burglary in the first degree of a non-residential structure, fenced commercial yard, or residential yard is a class 3 felony. If the burglary is committed in a residential structure, it is a class 2 felony.

Penalties for Burglary in the First Degree

The potential penalties for first-degree burglary depend on whether it is charged as a class 2 felony or a class 3 felony, and also on how many prior felony convictions the defendant has.

For a class 2 felony, the penalties are:

  • No priors: Probation eligible, or 3 to 12.5 years in prison
  • One felony prior: 4.5 to 23 years in prison
  • Two or more felony priors: 10.5 to 35 years in prison

For a class 3 felony, the penalties are:

  • No priors: Probation eligible, or 2 to 8.75 years in prison
  • One felony prior: 3.25 to 16.25 years in prison
  • Two or more felony priors: 7.5 to 25 years in prison

Defenses to Burglary in the First Degree

  • No “Intent”: A burglary is essentially a trespass on property where the person trespassing “intends” to commit a theft or felony. Evidence may show that a defendant was on a person’s property unlawfully, but he had not intent to commit any crimes on the property. If this the case, then the most the defendant could be convicted of would be the less serious crime of trespass.

Example: A person has been drinking or using drugs and is not aware of his surroundings. He stumbles his way trying to get back to his apartment but has trouble finding it, so he enters an apartment that is not his by mistake. This may constitute a trespass, but the person had no intent to commit any crimes. He merely mistook someone else’s apartment for his in his intoxicated condition.

Example: A person enters a structure or fenced yard with the intent of either using the telephone or going to the bathroom. Again, this may be a trespass, but the intent is not to commit any crime, so no burglary has occurred here.

How Salwin Law Can Help You

If you’ve been charged with burglary in the first degree, a skilled criminal defense attorney at the Salwin Law Group can help you with your case today. Stewart Salwin provides free consultations on criminal charges. Call today to see how we can help you get the best possible defense to your charges.

Call Salwin Law Group PLLC today at (480) 702-1789, or contact us online to make your appointment.