What are the consequences of an aggravated burglary charge?

Many states classify breaking into someone’s home or dwelling as a regular burglary, or as an aggravated burglary. An aggravated burglary charge is considered a more serious offense than a burglary. This means, an aggravated burglary carries increased penalties.

Understanding Aggravated Burglary

Not every state has a penal code for aggravated burglary. State penal codes that specifically set out offenses for aggravated burglary include Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. Although other states may not provide for a specific aggravated burglary charge, they may still authorize some burglaries to be punished at a higher level due to an aggravating circumstance.

As the name implies, aggravated burglary entails the commission of a regular burglary plus some aggravating circumstance. All of the states that utilize aggravated burglary charges consider the use or threatened use of a weapon to be an aggravating circumstance. Other stipulations will vary by state. Some will require evidence of a specific intent to commit some bad act. For example, in Kansas, just entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a felony or a sexual assault is enough to be considered an aggravated burglary, even if the sexual assault never occurred. In Montana, Ohio or Utah, if the victim suffers bodily injury during a burglary, then the assault will also justify an aggravated burglary charge, and is thus subject to a higher degree of punishment.

Aggravated Burglary Punishments

The punishment for aggravated burglary is far worse than the punishment for a simple burglary. For example, a defendant charged with simple burglary in Louisiana can be sentenced up to 12 years with or without hard labor, whereas a defendant charged with aggravated burglary will be sentenced to hard labor not less than a year and up to 30 years. Several states have even authorized life sentences for aggravated burglary convictions. Essentially, the sentence doubles or triples depending on the state’s sentencing guidelines.

In addition to increasing the range of punishment for an aggravated burglary, an aggravated finding can have other indirect penalties. For example, most offenders who are sentenced for aggravated charges are treated differently under parole laws. This means they must serve more of their time before they become eligible for parole. Second, defendants convicted of burglary with intent to commit a sexual assault can also be required to register as a sex offender. The bottom line is that an aggravated burglary charge can have serious, long-term consequences. 

Handling an Aggravated Burglary Charge

If you are facing criminal action, understanding how a regular burglary charge can become an aggravated burglary charge is a valuable tool in developing a strategy for how to handle your case, especially when the evidence of the underlying burglary is very strong. For example, if a defendant is charged with aggravated burglary for entering a habitation with the intent to commit a sexual assault, developing evidence that the perpetrator only entered with the intent to commit a misdemeanor theft could be the difference between a defendant being convicted of an aggravated burglary or a regular burglary.

If a defendant cannot beat the burglary charge, they may still be able to mitigate or reduce the punishment range by demonstrating that the aggravating circumstance does not exist. To do this, a defendant should understand the charge of aggravated burglary as it applies in their state and obtain a copy of the offense report detailing the charges against them. From there, a defendant can develop strategies for overcoming the aggravated finding.