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Under Arizona Revised Statutes, burglary is classified into three degrees: first, second, and third degree. The penalties for a burglary conviction in Arizona can range from probation to years in prison, depending on the severity of the offense. 


If you are facing burglary charges in Arizona, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. Our experienced burglary attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto will work tirelessly to defend your rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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Arizona Burglary Laws 

In Arizona, burglary is a crime that involves entering or remaining in a property illegally with the intent to commit theft or any other felony.

The law treats burglary very seriously, and depending on the specifics of the case—like the type of building involved or whether dangerous weapons were present—the crime can fall into one of three classifications.

First-Degree Burglary: ARS 13-1508

First-degree burglary, the most severe form of burglary, is outlined under ARS 13-1508(A). This charge applies when an individual unlawfully enters or remains in a residential structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony, and they are in possession of explosives, a deadly weapon, or a dangerous instrument.

  • Classification: Class 2 felony when involving a residential structure.
  • Presence of Weapons: The defining characteristic of first-degree burglary is the possession of dangerous weapons or explosives.

Second-Degree Burglary: ARS 13-1507

Defined under ARS 13-1507, second-degree burglary occurs when an individual unlawfully enters or remains in a residential structure with the intent to commit theft or any other felony therein.

This form of burglary does not necessitate the possession of weapons or explosives but still poses a significant threat to personal security. Elements of second-degree burglary include:

  • Classification: Class 3 felony.
  • Residential Involvement: It specifically involves residential structures, distinguishing it from third-degree burglary.

Third-Degree Burglary: ARS 13-1506

Third-degree burglary is codified under ARS 13-1506. This charge is applicable when an individual unlawfully enters or remains within a non-residential structure or in a fenced commercial or residential yard with the intent to commit theft or any felony. Third-degree burglary addresses less severe but still serious breaches of property security, including:

  • Classification: Class 4 felony.
  • Targeted Premises: Includes non-residential structures and enclosed yards.

The distinctions between these degrees of burglary depends on the type of premises involved and the presence of dangerous weapons.

man attempting a burglary

Penalties For a Burglary Charge 

In Arizona, the penalties for burglary vary significantly based on the degree of the charge. Each level of burglary—first, second, and third-degree—carries different potential sentences and fines, reflecting the severity of the offense. 

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary is considered the most severe burglary offense and is prosecuted aggressively in Arizona. This charge applies when the burglary involves a residence and the offender is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon.

      Classification: Class 2 felony (if the structure is a residence)

      ➤Potential Penalties:

    • For a first-time offense, imprisonment can range from 7 to 21 years.
    • For individuals with a prior record, the prison term may increase significantly, potentially up to 35 years depending on prior convictions and the presence of aggravating factors.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary involves entering or remaining unlawfully in a residential structure without deadly weapons or explosives.

     ➤Classification: Class 3 felony

     ➤Potential Penalties:

    • For first-time offenders, imprisonment ranges from 2 to 8.75 years.
    • Repeat offenders may face longer sentences, particularly if they have previous felony convictions, with maximum penalties extending up to 25 years.

Third-Degree Burglary

This charge pertains to burglaries involving non-residential structures or enclosed residential or commercial yards.

     ➤Classification: Class 4 felony

     ➤Potential Penalties:

    • Imprisonment for first-time offenders can vary from 1 to 3.75 years.
    • Those with prior felony convictions can expect harsher sentences, up to a maximum of 15 years depending on the number of previous offenses.

Additional Considerations

Besides the primary penalties, individuals convicted of burglary might also face:

      ➤Fines and Restitution: Courts can impose substantial fines and order the payment of restitution to the victims for damages or losses incurred.

      ➤Probation: Depending on the circumstances and the individual’s criminal history, the court may opt for probation instead of, or in addition to, imprisonment.

      ➤Permanent Record Implications: A felony conviction can significantly impact a person’s ability to secure employment, obtain housing, and maintain civil rights, such as voting.

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Burglary Defenses From an Attorney 

Here are some common defenses that can be used against burglary charges: 

Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence

Lack of Intent: Arguably the most crucial element in a burglary case is intent. If the defense can show that the accused did not intend to commit a theft or felony upon entering the property, the burglary charges might not stand.

Questioning the Unlawful Entry: Proving that the entry was without permission is a key component of the prosecution’s case. Defense might provide evidence or witness testimony that the accused had a right or permission to be on the property.

Misidentification: In some cases, the accused might be misidentified as the perpetrator of the burglary. Defense attorneys can use alibis, surveillance footage, or other forms of evidence to challenge such claims.

Suppressing Illegally Obtained Evidence

Violation of Rights: If evidence was obtained through a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights, such as an illegal search and seizure, a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress this evidence, potentially weakening the prosecution’s case.

Proving an Alibi

Solid Alibi: Presenting a verifiable alibi that places the accused at a different location during the time of the alleged burglary can be a powerful defense. This may include witness testimony, video evidence, or electronic location data.

Duress or Coercion

Under Duress: If the defendant committed the burglary under duress or coercion, meaning they were forced to commit the crime due to threats of immediate harm from another person, this can be used as a defense to negate the criminal intent required for a burglary conviction.

Mistake of Fact

Mistaken Belief: In some instances, the accused may have genuinely believed that they had the right to enter the property or take certain items, which could be used to argue against the presence of criminal intent.

These defenses are not universally applicable and require a qualified defense attorney to examine the facts of each case thoroughly. Effective legal representation involves not only presenting a defense but also negotiating with prosecutors to potentially reduce the charges or the severity of the penalties.

In Arizona, several criminal offenses are commonly associated with burglary charges. These related offenses can compound the severity of the legal situation for the accused and may affect the strategy for defense and negotiation. 

Trespassing

  • Definition: Trespassing involves entering or remaining unlawfully on someone else’s property. It is typically considered a precursor to burglary if it escalates to an attempt to commit theft or any felony.
  • Charges: Charges can range from a misdemeanor for simple trespass (ARS 13-1502) to a felony for aggravated circumstances (ARS 13-1504), such as entering a residential property or carrying a firearm.

Theft

  • Definition: Theft is the unauthorized use or control over someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of it permanently. Theft charges can be laid separately or in conjunction with burglary if items were taken during the unlawful entry.
  • Charges: Depending on the value of the stolen items, theft can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony (ARS 13-1802), with penalties increasing with the value of the stolen property.

Possession of Burglary Tools

  • Definition: This charge involves possessing any tools that are typically used to enter or attempt to enter a property unlawfully. Even if no burglary occurs, possession of such tools can lead to criminal charges.
  • Charges: Possession of burglary tools is usually charged as a felony (ARS 13-1505), reflecting the potential intent to commit burglary or theft.

Criminal Damage

  • Definition: Criminal damage pertains to knowingly damaging another person’s property. This can often occur during a burglary, either during forced entry or in an attempt to access locked areas.
  • Charges: Criminal damage can range from a misdemeanor to a felony (ARS 13-1602), depending on the extent of the damage.

Aggravated Assault

  • Definition: If a person commits assault while committing burglary, they can be charged with aggravated assault. This typically involves using a weapon or causing serious physical injury.
  • Charges: Aggravated assault is a serious felony (ARS 13-1204) that significantly increases the gravity of a burglary case, particularly if combined with first-degree burglary charges.

Conspiracy to Commit Burglary

  • Definition: This involves planning or agreeing with one or more persons to commit burglary and taking some steps towards its execution. Conspiracy is treated as a separate felony offense.
  • Charges: Charges for conspiracy are typically aligned with the severity of the intended crime (ARS 13-1003).

Each of these related offenses can affect the overall legal strategy in a burglary case. They require careful handling by a defense attorney to manage the potential for compounded penalties and to negotiate the best possible outcome based on the full scope of the charges.

man using a burglary tool

What is Considered a Burglary Tool

In Arizona, certain tools are classified as “burglary tools” if they are likely to be used to commit an unauthorized entry into a property. Possession of these tools, coupled with the intent to use them in a burglary, is a criminal offense under ARS 13-1505.

Here’s a list of common items that are considered burglary tools:

  • Lock Picking Equipment: Tools designed to open locks without keys, such as picks, tension wrenches, and bump keys.
  • Crowbars or Pry Bars: Used to forcibly open doors and windows.
  • Screwdrivers: Commonly used to remove screws from windows and doors to gain entry.
  • Bolt Cutters: Used to cut through chains, padlocks, or fences.
  • Glass Cutters: Tools for cutting glass to enter through windows quietly.
  • Master Keys: Keys that can open multiple locks, typically used in apartment or hotel burglaries.
  • Flashlights: Often used during nighttime burglaries to navigate dark areas discreetly.

Possessing any of these tools, especially in conjunction with suspicious behavior, can lead to felony charges due to the implied intent to commit burglary.

Contact an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

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Early legal intervention can significantly influence the outcome of a burglary charge—potentially reducing penalties or achieving a dismissal. If you or someone you know is implicated in a case, do not hesitate to seek professional legal help.

Contact the Law Office of Daniel Hutto at 602 536-7878. to schedule a consultation and ensure that your rights are defended throughout the legal process.

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