Massachusetts defines burglary as “breaking and entering into a dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony inside.” If you are charged with burglary or aggravated burglary, you must contact a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer for the legal representation that you’ll need.

Committing a theft or any other crime once inside a dwelling isn’t required in order to convict someone of burglary in Massachusetts. Merely entering a structure at night with the intent to commit a felony meets the legal definition of burglary in this state.

But how is “aggravated” burglary defined in Massachusetts and how is it distinct from “simple” or “unarmed” burglary? How are aggravated burglary convictions penalized? Keep reading this brief discussion of aggravated burglary in Massachusetts, and those questions will be answered.

How Are Burglary and Aggravated Burglary Different?

As mentioned above, the crime of burglary (or simple or unarmed burglary) in Massachusetts includes the following three elements:

  1. breaking and entering into a dwelling
  2. at night
  3. with the intent to commit a felony

A fourth element is required to raise the charge to aggravated burglary; the suspect had to be carrying a dangerous weapon such as a firearm, a knife, or even a baseball bat. Without proof of all four elements, the state may not be able to win a conviction for aggravated burglary.

What Is Breaking and Entering in Massachusetts?

And without proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the first three elements, the state probably can’t convict you of unarmed burglary, either, although you might be convicted of breaking and entering.

Unlike a burglary charge, a breaking and entering charge doesn’t require the structure that is broken into to be a dwelling, and it doesn’t have to happen at night. Breaking and entering may include buildings, ships, vessels, vehicles, or breaking into a depository or safe, by night or day.

What Are the Penalties for Burglary Convictions?

The sentence for a burglary conviction in Massachusetts may range from probation to a twenty-year prison sentence, and a second burglary conviction in this state requires a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence.

The penalties for burglary convictions are harsh in Massachusetts, and convicted offenders should not expect leniency from the court. An armed or aggravated burglary conviction entails even harsher sentencing.

The use of a blunt instrument or a knife to threaten or to harm someone during a burglary requires a mandatory minimum ten-year prison sentence on conviction. The use of a firearm requires a mandatory minimum fifteen-year sentence.

And if you have a prior conviction for aggravated or unarmed burglary, an aggravated burglary conviction triggers a mandatory minimum twenty-year prison sentence. With penalties like these, you must be represented by an experienced and skilled Massachusetts burglary attorney.

Can a Burglary or Aggravated Burglary Charge Be Dropped or Dismissed?

Could you be wrongly placed under arrest, fingerprinted, photographed, and charged with burglary or aggravated burglary because of a mistake or a misunderstanding? How do attorneys defend their clients against burglary and aggravated burglary charges?

If you’re charged with unarmed burglary or with aggravated burglary, contact a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer immediately. After considering the specifics of the charge against you, your lawyer will prepare a defense strategy designed to bring your case to its best possible outcome.

What steps will a Massachusetts burglary attorney take on your behalf? Usually, a defense lawyer begins by seeking to have the charge against the defendant dropped by the prosecution or dismissed by the court.

If your rights were violated by the police, for example, in an investigation, search, interrogation, or arrest – and if your attorney can prove that your rights were violated – the charge against you will probably be dismissed or dropped. But these cases are rare. The police know the rules.

Will You Be Offered a Plea Deal?

If the unarmed or aggravated burglary charge against you can’t be dismissed or dropped, you’ll have a choice. If you’re innocent, you should have your defense attorney take the case to trial, present evidence on your behalf, and ask the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

But if the state’s evidence and the case against you are persuasive, and if a conviction for unarmed or aggravated burglary is inevitable, your defense attorney may be able to negotiate on your behalf for an acceptable plea agreement.

With a plea agreement, you would plead guilty to a less serious charge, and in exchange, the original charge is dropped. A plea agreement gives the prosecutor a conviction and the defendant a lesser sentence. A good defense lawyer will negotiate for the best possible plea agreement.

If Your Aggravated Burglary Case Goes to Trial

Of course, you shouldn’t accept any plea agreement if you are not guilty of aggravated burglary. As mentioned previously, you should instead have your defense attorney take the case to trial, offer evidence on your behalf, and explain to the jurors why they should find you not guilty.

At trial, your defense attorney may offer one of these defenses against an aggravated burglary charge:

  1. You have been misidentified. Someone who looks like you or has a name similar to yours actually committed the aggravated burglary.
  2. The charge is fabricated: Innocent persons are sometimes accused of crimes that never really happened because fabricated accusations are sometimes made by people who are trying to get revenge or stir up trouble.
  3. Insufficient evidence: For example, if your fingerprints were discovered at the scene of an aggravated burglary, and if your lawyer can prove you were there earlier for another purpose, the evidence is inconclusive, and doubt will be cast on the prosecution’s case.

What Else Should You Know About Aggravated Burglary?

An aggravated burglary conviction has a number of serious and lasting consequences, but a skilled and experienced defense lawyer can make the difference. Your lawyer will work aggressively and effectively to have an aggravated burglary charge dropped, reduced, or dismissed.

That is how most aggravated burglary charges are handled in Massachusetts. Trials are uncommon, but should your aggravated burglary case go to trial, your defense lawyer will use the appropriate legal tools to cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence and seek an acquittal.

Every burglary defendant in Massachusetts has the right to an attorney. If you’re charged with burglary or aggravated burglary, your freedom and future could depend on having the right Massachusetts criminal defense attorney fighting for your freedom and for the justice you need.