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If you have been charged with the crime of burglary you will need a criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Whether you hire or retain a criminal defense attorney will likely depend upon your and your family’s financial status. Anyone who is financially unable to retain a criminal defense attorney will be eligible to have a court-appointed lawyer or public defender. If the case is assigned to the public defender’s office, you or your family can still retain a criminal defense attorney. The circumstances for most people is that they need financial assistance from family members in order to be able to afford to hire an attorney.
If you or a family member has been arrested and charged with the offense of burglary you may contact our office for an appointment. Attorney Greg McCollum has represented many people charged with the offense of burglary over the years. Cases have been dismissed and expunged from the person’s criminal record, cases have been reduced and referred to Pre Trial Intervention, cases have resulted in guilty pleas to probation. Other cases have gone to trial and the person was found not guilty by a jury, and on some cases the person has been convicted at trial of a lesser charge of burglary in the second degree and found not guilty on the greater charge of burglary in the first degree, which resulted in a less severe prison sentence.
There are three types of burglary offenses in South Carolina. Burglary First Degree, Burglary Second Degree and Burglary Third Degree. First Degree Burglary is the most serious. All degrees of burglary are felonies. Most people think of burglary as the crime of breaking and entering or housebreaking with the intent to steal. While that may be the case, an intent to steal is no longer required. One may be charged with burglary if the state alleges an intent to commit a crime within the house or building, which could be an intent to assault or some other type of offense. Additionally, most people think of burglary as involving a breaking in or requiring some type of forcible entry, however, the offense does not require a break in, it requires the entering to be without consent or permission.
Many times when someone is arrested and charged with burglary, the person is charged on multiple warrants with multiple burglaries alleged to have been committed on separate days. Typically those are considered separate crimes which cannot be joined together for one trial. The significance of that is the prosecutor may have to elect which case to prosecute at trial and choose one case over another based upon the strength of the evidence.
Several factors need to be considered depending on the charge or charges, the evidence available, and the circumstances surrounding the allegations.
The Offense of Burglary in South Carolina
Historically, Burglary was a common Law Offense defined as breaking and entering a dwelling during the night with intent to steal. That definition and what constitutes a charge of burglary has been altered considerably over the years. In South Carolina, there are three types or degrees of Burglary. Burglary in the first degree is the most serious. Someone charged with First Degree Burglary must have a bond hearing before a state circuit judge because a magistrate or municipal judge lacks authority to set bond. The only other criminal offense in South Carolina where a Summary Court Judge lacks authority to set bond is for a charge of Murder and the most serious form of Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor.
Like Murder, First Degree Burglary carries a possible punishment of up to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The minimum penalty for Burglary in the First Degree is not less than fifteen years imprisonment. The elements of the crime of Burglary in the First Degree are: entering a dwelling without consent and with intent to commit a crime at night or while entering, or while inside or while fleeing: the person is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive or injures another person or uses or threatens, with a dangerous instrument, or displays a knife firearm or the person committing the offense has two prior burglary convictions on his or her record.
Burglary in the Second Degree, is two separate offenses with different possible penalties depending upon whether the charge is the unlawful entering of a dwelling, where someone resides, versus a building which is not used as a dwelling, typically a business or some type of detached garage or storage building. A person charged under Section (A) of the Burglary Second Degree code section is charged with entering a dwelling during the day time with intent to commit a crime inside. The maximum penalty is a possible incarceration for up to ten years.
The other form of Second Degree Burglary is entering a building without consent with intent to commit a crime, accompanied by one of the same aggravating factors as the Burglary First Statute: That is the person charged is accused of doing an aggravated factor while entering, while inside or while in flight from the scene. The possible aggravating factors are that the person accused: (1) is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive or (2) causes physical injury to another or (3) uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument or (4) displays a knife or firearm or (5) the offense is committed by a person with two prior convictions for burglary or (6) the entry occurs at night. The penalty for Burglary Second Degree under Section (B) is up to fifteen years imprisonment and is not eligible for parole until after serving at least one third of the sentence.
The other type of Burglary charge is Burglary in the Third Degree, which is defined as entering a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime, therein. Burglary in the Third Degree is a felony and carries up to a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or up to ten years imprisonment if it is a second offense.