Breaking into and entering another person's home when the dwelling is occupied is legally considered a far more serious crime under the law than illegal entry when no one is home. Suspect may be just as surprised as the resident to find someone inside, but it doesn't matter the intention. If someone is present, the potential charges is increased from a “burglary of a dwelling” to a “home invasion,” a much more serious offense.
In Alabama, a home invasion is legally referred to as “first-degree burglary.”
According to a recent news article from AL.com, authorities arrested three suspects in connection with an alleged home invasion in Etowah County, Alabama. The suspects are a 41-year-old man, his 39-year-old wife, and a 41-year-old female. They are all being held in the county detention center without bond.
As our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys can explain, everyone theoretically has a constitutional right to be released from jail with or without a bond. However, if the prosecutor can show a risk of flight or that the defendant poses a danger to the community, he or she can be held without bond. More serious offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery and first-degree burglary (home invasion) are often the offenses on which a defendant is held without bond.
In this case, authorities say the alleged criminal offense occurred around 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. At the time of the alleged burglary, a 13-year-old girl was home and heard someone force open the door leading from the garage to the house. At this point, she ran out of the back door of her home and called her father. He father said to call 911, and he headed for home immediately.
The homeowner returned to the house and saw one of the female suspects in his home, and she allegedly told him, “It isn't my fault.”
He went into the home, grabbed his shotgun, loaded it, and headed outside. He then fired a shot into the air and the suspects fled in a van.
The police soon found them, along with some of the property from the family home they had allegedly burglarized. First, it is important to note that all three defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are found guilty in a court of law, as these are merely allegations.
It is also important to understand the authorities tend to charge a higher-level offense than what they actually believe would meet the required elements in order to scare defendants into accepting a plea bargain. While this is often very difficult to prove in terms of prosecutorial misconduct, it can be very useful to an experienced Birmingham criminal defense attorney when fighting the charges. For example, in the state of Alabama, a first-degree burglary involves breaking into a residence while armed with explosives, causing a physical injury to an innocent victim, or when armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. If these elements were not present, as the alleged offender did not have a gun, knife, explosives, or hurt anyone, the first-degree burglary charge is probably not appropriate. However, this doesn't stop prosecutors from “overcharging” the case in certain situations.
In this case, a charge of burglary in the second-degree might be more appropriate under Section 13A-7-6(b), which includes a burglary at a residence that is occupied at the time of the offense; however, this may involve proving defendant knew the residence was occupied at the time of entry.
3 arrested in Gadsden home invasion, police say, August 3, 2015, AL.com, William Thornton