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Criminal Law: Robbery/ Burglary

New Jersey Robbery Attorney for All Theft Crimes

The law defines robbery as taking the property of another by force or threat, with or without a weapon. Burglary is defined as entering a house, building, car, or any other structure intending to commit an offense inside. Both of these are serious offenses carrying the potential for long-term imprisonment, and those convicted of robbery may be required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

With centuries of combined criminal litigation experience, the defense lawyers of Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. are trusted advocates for individuals facing robbery and burglary charges in New Jersey. We provide aggressive defense representation focused on challenging the prosecution’s case from all angles. From what the police said or did during your arrest to the credibility of the witnesses who testify against you, every aspect of the prosecution’s case is subject to attack, and our attorneys will use their experience to fight for a just result at trial.

When facing charges for robbery or burglary, it is critical to start building your defense as soon as possible. The prosecution has a head start, and you need to level the playing field. When you contact us, we will arrange for you to meet with a New Jersey robbery attorney as soon as possible, and your attorney will work with you one-on-one to determine the best strategy for protecting your future in court.

Understanding Your Robbery or Burglary Case

1. Robbery Under New Jersey Law

Section 2C:15-1 of the New Jersey Code defines the offense of robbery as follows:

“A person is guilty of robbery if, in the course of committing a theft, he: (1) Inflicts bodily injury or uses force upon another; or (2) Threatens another with or purposely puts him in fear of immediate bodily injury; or (3) Commits or threatens immediately to commit any crime of the first or second degree.

“An act shall be deemed to be included in the phrase ‘in the course of committing a theft’ if it occurs in an attempt to commit theft or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission.”

In other words, you can be charged with robbery if you harm someone, threaten to harm someone or commit (or threaten to commit) a first or second-degree crime before, during or after an attempted or successful theft. For purposes of most robbery cases, “theft” is defined in Section 2C:20-3 as, “unlawfully tak[ing], or exercise[ing] unlawful control over, movable property of another with purpose to deprive him thereof.”

2. Burglary Under New Jersey Law

Section 2C:18-2 of the New Jersey code defines the offense of burglary as follows:

“A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein or thereon he:

“(1) Enters a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof unless the structure was at the time open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter;

“(2) Surreptitiously remains in a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so; or

“(3) Trespasses in or upon utility company property where public notice prohibiting trespass is given by conspicuous posting, or fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.”

While this sounds (and is) complicated, the basics of the offense of burglary in New Jersey are simple. You can be charged with burglary if: (i) you enter someone else’s property without permission, and (ii) you do so with the intent to commit a crime (such as arson or sexual assault) while on the property. This includes entrance into a building, a room, a vehicle, or any other place adapted for overnight accommodation.

3. Criminal Penalties for Robbery and Burglary in New Jersey

In most cases, robbery will be prosecuted as a second-degree indictable offense. However, prosecutors can pursue first-degree criminal charges in cases involving (i) an attempt to kill, (ii) purposeful infliction or attempt to inflict serious bodily injury, or (iii) use or a threat to use a deadly weapon.

A “standard” burglary charge is a third-degree indictable offense. However, it rises to the level of a second-degree indictable offense in cases in which the defendant either: (i) purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury; or, (ii) is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon.”

As a result, depending on the circumstances involved in your case, you could be facing penalties including:

  • First-Degree Robbery – 10 to 20 years in prison and a $200,000 fine
  • Second-Degree Robbery or Burglary – Five to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine
  • Third-Degree Burglary – Three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine

4. The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof in Robbery and Burglary Cases

Like all criminal cases, in robbery and burglary cases, the prosecution must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the prosecutor must convince all members of the jury that you committed the alleged offense with at least 99 percent certainty.

The prosecution’s burden of proof applies to each element of the offense with which you are charged. This includes the requisite mental state (i.e. that you acted intentionally or purposefully), as well as each step involved in the commission of the alleged offense (i.e. committing a theft or entering a structure, attempting or threatening to cause bodily injury, or brandishing a deadly weapon).

If the prosecution cannot prove each element of your robbery or burglary charge, then you do not deserve to be convicted. However, many of New Jersey’s prosecutors are very good at what they do, and you will need to present an effective defense strategy in order to avoid substantial fines and years or decades in prison.

5. Potential Defenses to Robbery and Burglary Charges in New Jersey

If you have been arrested and charged with robbery or burglary, one of your first steps should be to determine what defenses you have available. We can help you with this, and during your initial consultation your attorney will begin gathering the information needed to determine the best way to protect you. Potential defenses to robbery and burglary charges in New Jersey include:

  • Defenses to theft – Since robbery involves committing certain acts, “in the course of committing a theft,” if you did not attempt to commit or successfully commit a theft, then you cannot be found guilty of robbery. For example, if you thought you had someone’s permission to use their property, then you may not be guilty of having the “purpose to deprive him thereof.”
  • No purpose to commit an offense – In order to be guilty of burglary, you must enter someone else’s property with the purpose of committing an offense. The prosecution must prove that you had this purpose at the time that you entered. If you entered someone else’s property for any other reason (even if you decided to engage in criminal conduct once you were there), you are not guilty of burglary.
  • Permission – For both robbery and burglary, believing that you had permission to use someone else’s property or enter someone else’s premises can be enough to prevent a criminal conviction. This includes demonstrating that the premises were generally open to the public at the time of your entry.
  • Lack of evidence – Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, you do not need to prove your innocence in order to avoid conviction. If you can raise a reasonable doubt about any element of the government’s case (i.e. by questioning the government’s evidence of intent), then you deserve to hear a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
  • Inadmissible evidence – Certain conduct during or following your arrest can result in some or all of the government’s evidence against you being deemed inadmissible at trial. Most commonly, this involves demonstrating that the police conducted an illegal search or seizure, or that they failed to read your Miranda rights prior to interrogating you.
  • Self-defense, defense of others, alibi or diminished capacity – Depending upon the circumstances involved in your case, there are various other criminal defenses that you may be able to assert as well. These include self-defense, defense of others, alibi and diminished capacity. Learn more.

Robbery and Burglary Defense: New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Q&A

Q: What are my rights after an arrest for robbery or burglary in New Jersey?

As a defendant in New Jersey’s criminal justice system, you have a number of fundamental legal and constitutional rights. Most importantly for right now, you have the right to remain silent and the right to speak with an attorney. You should not discuss your case with anyone at the police station, jail or courthouse, and you should request to speak with an attorney right away.

You have various other rights that will come into play during your case as well, including:

  • The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to a trial by jury

If the police or prosecutors violate any of your fundamental rights, our attorneys can use this to help build your defense. Even if you took the steps necessary to commit a robbery or burglary (which is something that you should never assume), a violation of your constitutional rights could provide a complete defense at trial.

Q: If I am guilty, is it still worth it to hire a defense lawyer?

Once again, you should never assume that you are guilty of an alleged offense. The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and you are not guilty unless the judge says so at the end of your trial (although, even then, you may have grounds to file an appeal). Robbery and burglary are complex offenses; and, even if you think you committed a crime, the law might still say otherwise.

But, let’s say that you took the steps and had the mental state required to commit the offense of robbery or burglary. Is it still worth it to hire a defense lawyer? In a word, “Yes.” A defense lawyer will be able to help you by:

  • Arguing for a lesser charge
  • Arguing for a lenient sentence
  • Arguing for improperly-obtained evidence to be suppressed from your case
  • Challenging each element of the prosecution’s burden of proof
  • Convincing the jury that you do not deserve to face a lifetime of consequences

Q: If I didn’t commit a robbery or burglary, could I still be convicted of a related or lesser-included offense?

Possibly. Since robbery inherently involves a theft, and since burglary involves entering a structure with the purpose to commit an offense therein, it is possible that you could be guilty of an offense even if you are not guilty of robbery or burglary. For this reason, it is imperative that you approach your defense carefully and with awareness of the potential implications of the various strategies you have available. This is another reason why it is crucial to have experienced defense representation.

Q: If I am convicted and sentenced to jail, when will I be eligible for parole?

Under New Jersey law, the general rule is that inmates become eligible for parole after serving one third of their term of imprisonment (“less commutation time for good behavior . . . and credits for diligent application to work and other institutional assignments”). However, due to the severity of the crime of robbery, if you are convicted of this crime, you can be required to serve up to 85 percent of your sentence before achieving parole eligibility.

Q: How soon can I speak with one of your defense lawyers?

When you contact us, we will make arrangements for you to meet with one of our defense lawyers as soon as possible. If you are currently incarcerated, an attorney will come meet with you in jail. It is important that we get to work on your case quickly, so you should not delay in scheduling an appointment.

Q: What can I expect from my robbery or burglary case if I hire a defense lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.?

No criminal defense attorney can guarantee the outcome of your case, and we cannot realistically assess your chances of avoiding conviction until we know the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest. However, what we can guarantee you is that we will use our attorneys’ centuries of combined criminal law experience to build a sound defense strategy, and that we will fight vigorously to protect your future in court.

Speak With a New Jersey Robbery and Burglary Defense Lawyer in Confidence

To speak with an attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. about your robbery or burglary case in New Jersey, please call 609-281-8607 or contact us online now.

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