In Mercer County, a car burglary charge is as serious as any other property crime, even if nothing was stolen. A burglary conviction could send you to jail, cost you thousands of dollars in fines, and block you from many opportunities in the future. When the consequences are this serious, you need an equally serious defense to protect your rights and freedoms. You need a Mercer County criminal defense attorney like Keith Oliver Criminal Law.
Our Mercer County car burglary lawyers are prepared to do everything we can to keep you out of jail as we fight for the optimal solution for your situation. Depending on the circumstances, that could mean negotiating for a reduced sentence, poking holes in the prosecution’s case, or building an airtight trial defense. When you work with Keith Oliver Criminal Law, your defense comes first. Call us today or visit our contact page for a free consultation.
What Is Car Burglary?
Car burglary is the crime of entering someone’s vehicle without their permission. Even if someone leaves a car door unlocked and the perpetrator does not break a window to enter, that is still considered burglary. While stealing from someone’s car can lead to stiffer penalties, theft is not required for the underlying charge of vehicular burglary.
It is worth noting that car burglary sounds similar to auto theft. However, they are separate offenses. Auto theft is the crime of stealing someone’s car. But if the perpetrator steals someone’s car and leaves with the owner’s stolen property, they could face car burglary and auto theft charges for the same incident.
Mercer County, New Jersey Burglary Laws
Section 2C:18-2 of the New Jersey Statutes contains the state’s burglary laws. According to this section, a person commits burglary if they do any of the following with the intent to commit an offense:
- Enter a structure, research facility, or separately secured part of a property without permission from the owner — unless the property is open to the public
- Stay in a structure, research facility, or separately secured portion of a property if they know they are not allowed to be there
- Trespass on utility company property in areas where signs say the public is not allowed
While the words “car” or “vehicle” do not appear in this law, a car in this context is still considered a “structure.” So if someone enters another person’s car without permission, they have broken into a structure without permission and may be guilty of burglary.
What Is the Penalty for Burglary Charges in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the term for a felony is an “indictable offense.” Burglary, including car burglary, is usually a third-degree indictable offense. The penalties for a third-degree indictable offense include up to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Burglary can be a second-degree indictable offense in certain circumstances, such as when the offender injures or threatens to injure someone during the crime. Car burglary is also a second-degree indictable offense if the offender has or displays what looks like a deadly weapon. Penalties for a second-degree crime are severe, with up to 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines.
While these are the legal consequences of a car burglary charge, an indictable offense conviction can have significant effects on your future. An indictable offense on your record can keep you from finding a job and may prevent you from living in certain areas or getting a loan. A car burglary defense lawyer can protect your future by helping you avoid an indictable offense conviction.
What to Do After Being Charged with Burglary in Mercer County
If the police arrest you on a car burglary charge in Mercer County, do not say anything until you talk to a lawyer first. You have the right to remain silent and should use that right to avoid saying anything that might hurt your case.
After the police arrest you, call a burglary defense attorney immediately. A defense lawyer can represent you at your initial court appearance and help you get bail. Once you are out of police custody, your lawyer can explore potential options for avoiding the worst possible outcomes. You may not be able to avoid having a criminal charge on your record. But you may be able to negotiate for a lesser charge or enroll in a pre-trial diversion program. Without a defense lawyer’s help, avoiding a prison sentence or other penalties is much more challenging in Mercer County.
Common Defenses Against Car Burglary Charges
Some defense strategies that might be effective in your car burglary case include:
- Mistaken identity – If the police did not catch you in the process of entering someone’s car without permission, they might have made a false arrest based on flawed evidence. A lawyer can help show how you did not commit the crime, which should lead the prosecution to drop their charges.
- You had permission to enter the vehicle – Car burglary is the crime of entering someone’s vehicle without permission. If you can show you had permission to enter the vehicle, the prosecution should drop the burglary charge against you.
- You did not mean to commit an offense – You might be able to prove that you simply lacked the intent to commit an offense, a necessary part of burglary.
- Dismissing tainted evidence – If the police made their arrest based on evidence from an illegal search, your lawyer could move to have the tainted evidence dismissed. Without evidence to support a conviction, the prosecution might have to drop their case against you.
Charged with Burglary of a Car in New Jersey? Talk to Our Experienced Burglary Defense Lawyers in Mercer County
Facing a car burglary charge in New Jersey is frightening. But you do not have to do it alone. The team at Keith Oliver Criminal Law can protect your rights and fight for your freedom. We are ready to take your case at any time, get you out of jail if necessary, and start work preparing your defense. Call us today or visit our contact page for a free consultation.