Burglary and home invasion are different charges and if the prosecution can prove either beyond a reasonable doubt, their minimum sentences are very different. Home invasion is a more serious felony compared to a burglary. Understanding how both crimes that involve entering a dwelling at night differ can help you understand why their potential penalties are what they are.
In Massachusetts, home invasion is a crime that involves unlawful and forceful entry into someone else’s dwelling with the intention to commit a crime against its occupants.
Intended crimes during a home invasion include:
If you are facing home invasion charges, hiring a reputable criminal defense attorney is key to building an effective defense to either get a judge to dismiss charges against you or reduce them to minimize their impact on your professional and personal life.
What Constitutes Burglary?
In Massachusetts, burglary involves three distinct elements. To prove a burglary occurred, the prosecution must establish that someone broke into a dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony. If someone did this during the daytime, the state law would define it as criminal trespassing.
The state qualifies a dwelling as any place where someone may stay overnight, which ranges from a house or an apartment to a boat. In Massachusetts, a dwelling also includes garages, barns, and other buildings that are close to a house or other type of dwelling.
What Makes Home Invasion More Serious than Burglary?
Home invasion shares two similarities with burglary: entering someone else’s dwelling and doing so at night. However, a judge must establish additional elements of the crime to convict someone of a home invasion.
When someone committed home invasion, they did so:
- While knowing someone else was staying at the dwelling at the time they broke in
- While the person stayed in the dwelling even after learning someone had broken into their place
- While armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of entry
- And used or threatened to use force on any occupant they found inside the dwelling
- And intentionally harmed one or more persons they found at the dwelling
Massachusetts defines a dangerous weapon as one that can cause serious or lethal injury. Two categories exist: dangerous weapons designed for this function and those that are not but can lead to severe bodily harm or death when someone uses them in a specific way.
What Are the Possible Penalties for Home Invasion in Massachusetts?
The state law categorizes home invasion as a serious felony. While a burglary conviction can involve penalties ranging from a short probation term to many years in jail, a home invasion conviction always results in a minimum of 20 years in prison. However, the penalty may go up to a lifetime depending on the specific case. This jail sentence has a significant and permanent impact on your professional and personal life.
The state law includes a provision that allows a judge to choose a probation sentence rather than 20 years in prison or more for a home invasion conviction. Additional charges often happen in home invasion cases. In such situations, the prosecution may use that to get the defendant to accept a plea for a lesser charge.
What Defense Strategies Do You Have Against Home Invasion Charges?
As soon as you face home invasion charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. They help protect your rights and avoid you saying something that the prosecution can later use against you. If the police arrest you, remember you have the right to remain silent and to get a lawyer.
An effective defense can focus on one or more elements of a home invasion crime. For example, your attorney can establish that you had the right to live or visit the dwelling at the time of the alleged crime, making it a lawful entry.
Your defense attorney can also establish that you had no way of knowing in advance that someone else would be present at the time of entry.
Witness cross-examination is a key element of a strong defense strategy, and it can be especially important if your lawyer can establish that the occupant and alleged victim of a home invasion show bias against you. Similarly, a cross-examination can prove that the occupant mistakenly identified you as the home invader.
If your attorney finds out that the alleged victim has a criminal record, they may be able to leverage it in your favor, especially if the alleged victim received a conviction in the past decade.
At Brad Bailey Law, we aggressively fight for your rights and future, and we have a significant track record of successful cases. As an award-winning legal firm, we are committed to helping you secure a dismissal of charges or an advantageous plea bargain.
Brad Bailey Law is a nationally recognized criminal defense attorney in Boston. Contact us today at (617) 500-0252 to schedule a consultation to discuss how to contest the home invasion charges against you.