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Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Theft > Is It “Burglary” If You Take Something From an Abandoned House?

Is It “Burglary” If You Take Something From an Abandoned House?


The terms burglary and theft are often used interchangeably even though, legally speaking, they refer to different criminal acts. Burglary means entering (or remaining within) a building with the intent to commit theft or another felony. The theft itself is a separate crime. So you can be charged with burglary if you are caught inside someone else’s property even if you have not actually taken anything inside.

Georgia Man Convicted of Burglarizing Convenience Store, Vacant Home

Similarly, you can be charged with burglary if you enter a building that is abandoned or unoccupied with the intent to commit a felony. A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Ford v. State, provides a helpful illustration of this point. In this case, prosecutors charged the defendant with committing two burglaries. The first burglary occurred at a convenience store where the defendant previously worked as a stocker.

Even after his employment ended, the defendant returned to the store numerous times to visit with a friend who worked there. This friend also had keys to the store. She failed to return the keys after she was fired, however, and instead asked the defendant to return them for her. According to prosecutors, the defendant never returned the keys to the store’s owners.

One night, the owners received notice from their alarm company that “something happened” at the store. When they arrived at the store, they found the front door was unlocked and about $3,800 in cash was missing. Surveillance video showed a man wearing a mask and sunglasses entering the store, heading into the office where the money was kept, and exiting the building a few minutes later.

Although the owners could not identify the burglar, the police investigation quickly focused on the defendant. One of the defendant’s friends said he was staying in a nearby vacant house. Officers obtained a search warrant for the house and found the defendant inside. The police located the owner of the property, who identified several items that were missing from the home.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with the burglaries of both the store and the abandoned house. The jury convicted him on both counts. On appeal, the defense challenged the trial judge’s refusal to try the burglaries separately. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument. While a defendant normally has a right to sever charges that were joined together “solely because they are of the same or similar character,” it was appropriate here to try the two burglaries together “because they were factually connected.” Notably, the appellate court cited the surveillance video, which showed the burglar leaving the store and running towards the abandoned house.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

First-degree burglary is a serious matter. In Georgia, it carries a potential jail term of up to 20 years for a first offense. So if you have been charged with burglary or any theft crime, you need to speak with a qualified Georgia theft attorney as soon as possible. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.



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