Facing charges of theft or burglary generates urgent questions about your rights and the potential impact on your life. What should you do immediately after being charged with theft or burglary? How can you defend yourself? This article aims to demystify the initial steps you need to take, clarify the differences between theft and burglary charges, and set expectations for the legal road ahead—all to help you navigate this critical juncture with confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • It is crucial to remain calm, exercise the right to remain silent, and seek legal representation immediately after being charged with theft or burglary, as early actions can significantly impact the case outcome.
  • Understanding the legal definitions and potential consequences of theft versus burglary is essential, as each has distinct elements, charges, and repercussions within the legal system, affecting the defense strategy.
  • Navigating the legal process carefully, with a strategic approach by an experienced criminal defense lawyer, is key to managing bail hearings, preparing for a potential trial, and mitigating the long-term personal implications of a conviction.

Immediate Steps After Being Charged

Person being arrested by police

The moment you hear the words “You’re under arrest,” time may seem to stand still. However, your actions in the immediate aftermath of being charged with theft or burglary are critical. The golden rule is not to resist arrest, as doing so can lead to additional charges that only complicate your situation. Instead, remain calm and comply with the instructions of law enforcement.

Next, remember your right to remain silent. This is a powerful tool that can prevent self-incrimination during police questioning. Only by staying silent can you ensure that nothing you say inadvertently harms your case.

As you process the reality of the charges against you, it’s imperative to seek legal representation at the earliest opportunity. This is not the time for conversations with friends or attempts to explain your side of the story to the police. Your attorney is the only person you should be discussing your case with, ensuring that every aspect of your defense is managed with the precision and expertise needed for the best possible outcome.

Securing Legal Representation

The labyrinth of the legal system is daunting, and navigating it without an experienced criminal defense lawyer is akin to setting sail without a compass. Immediately after being charged, request an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected from the outset. A criminal defense lawyer will be your advocate, your voice, and your strategic planner in the face of theft or burglary charges. They have the expertise to navigate the complexities of your case, advocating for a fair trial and utilizing all available resources to prepare a robust defense.

Selecting the right attorney is not a decision to be taken lightly. The qualifications and experience of your legal representative can make all the difference. They will be your guide through the criminal justice system, helping you understand your options, discuss possible defenses, and, importantly, ensure that your reputation is defended as vigorously as your freedom. Remember, the attorney-client relationship is sacred, and your lawyer is there to fight for you every step of the way.

Protecting Your Rights

The power of silence cannot be overstated when charged with theft or burglary. Remaining silent is an armor that guards against self-incrimination. To invoke this right effectively, you must verbally inform law enforcement officials of your decision to remain silent. Non-verbal cues are not enough and could lead to misunderstandings that may jeopardize your case. Once you’ve stated your intention to remain silent, the next step is to ensure that you have an attorney present during any interactions with the police.

The legal waters are treacherous, and discussing your case with anyone other than your criminal defense lawyer could lead to unintended leaks of information. Whether it’s taking someone else’s property without permission or allegations of unlawful entry, your rights are at stake. Guard them fiercely, and let your lawyer be the guardian of your narrative.

This is not just about protecting your rights; it’s about safeguarding your future.

Understanding Theft and Burglary Charges in Detail

burglar, burglary, surveillance camera

Theft and burglary are terms often used interchangeably, but in the eyes of the law, they describe distinct crimes with unique elements and consequences. Understanding the nuances of these charges is essential. Theft is the unauthorized control over someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them permanently of it, which can be classified as a theft crime. Burglary, on the other hand, involves unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime therein, and if that entry is into a residence, it’s classified as residential burglary. The severity of these charges can vary greatly, from petty theft to grand theft, and from third-degree burglary to a second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. In addition to theft and burglary, theft robbery and burglary charges are also taken seriously by law enforcement and the courts.

In Utah, for instance, the theft law encompasses various offenses, including extortion, receiving stolen property, and theft of lost or mislaid property. Burglary does not necessarily have to involve theft; it can be the intent to commit any felony, theft, or assault—each carrying its weight in the legal system. It’s not uncommon for an individual to face both theft and burglary charges if the actions meet the criteria for both crimes. Understanding these distinctions is the first step in building an informed defense.

Elements of a Theft Charge

Theft charges pivot on two elements: the unlawful taking of property and the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. In Utah, theft crimes are categorized based on the value or type of property stolen, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. The intent behind the committed theft is critical, as the theft act seeks to punish those who aim to permanently strip owners of their possessions. Defenses against theft charges can include proving that there was permission involved or asserting rightful ownership, particularly in complex personal scenarios such as disputes between former partners or acquaintances.

Understanding the complexities of a theft charge is paramount. Whether it’s petty theft involving small amounts or grand theft with higher stakes, the law scrutinizes the act of stealing with a focus on intent and possession. Misunderstandings and disputes can lead to theft charges, but the burden of proving intent to commit theft lies with the prosecution. This is where the subtleties of your defense can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

Breaking Down Burglary Charges

Burglary is a crime that occurs when a person commits burglary through the unlawful entry into a building with the intent to commit any crime, not just theft or assault. In Utah, burglary can also involve the intent to perform acts such as lewdness, voyeurism, or sexual assault, broadening the scope of what constitutes this offense. The severity of a burglary charge can range from a third-degree to a second-degree felony, with second degree burglary typically associated with entering a dwelling. These charges are considered separate offenses from any additional crimes committed once inside the building.

The intricacies of burglary charges are often misunderstood. Here are the potential punishments for different types of burglary charges:

  • A third-degree felony for a general violation may result in one to five years in state prison.
  • A second-degree felony carries a heftier potential punishment of one to fifteen years.
  • In cases of aggravated burglary, where harm or threats with a deadly weapon are involved, the charge escalates to a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

These distinctions underline the gravity of burglary charges, especially when they involve the risk of serious bodily injury, and the importance of a solid defense strategy.

Navigating the Legal Process

injustice, the criminal process, process

The legal journey from arrest to resolution is a complex one, with many steps along the way. After being arrested for theft or burglary, the accused will go through the following stages:

  1. Booking: This involves the collection of personal data, fingerprints, and a mugshot.
  2. Arraignment: The accused will appear in court and enter a plea.
  3. Bail hearings: The court will determine whether the accused can be released on bail and set the bail amount.
  4. Pre-trial motions: Both the prosecution and defense may file motions to address legal issues before the trial.
  5. Trial: If the case goes to trial, evidence will be presented, and a verdict will be reached.

Each stage requires a strategic approach and a thorough understanding of the law, emphasizing the need for an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Attending all required court appearances is non-negotiable, as failure to appear can lead to additional charges or defaulting on bail. With your attorney by your side, you’ll work together to challenge evidence, explore plea deals, and present a compelling case if your defense reaches trial. It’s a path paved with legal intricacies, but with the right guidance, you can navigate it with confidence.

The Role of Bail in Theft and Burglary Cases

Bail serves as the cornerstone of your pre-trial freedom, allowing you to resume daily life while ensuring your appearance at trial. In Utah, those charged with theft and burglary usually have the right to request bail. The judge has the discretion to determine bail amounts based on various factors, such as the seriousness of the offense and the perceived risk of flight. Options for bail include cash bonds, property bonds, and surety bonds, each with its own set of criteria.

The bail hearing is a critical juncture, where the judge may grant release on recognizance or impose bail with conditions. If granted bail, it’s imperative to abide by all the conditions set by the court to avoid re-arrest or revocation of bail. This aspect of the legal process is not just about the financial commitment—it’s a promise to engage in the legal process and take responsibility for your case.

Preparing for Trial

jail cells, jail, penitentiary

When facing the prospect of a trial, thorough preparation is your best ally. This preparation involves:

  • Gathering all relevant documentation and evidence that may support your case
  • Identifying potential witnesses who can corroborate your version of events or provide you with an alibi
  • Being transparent with your attorney allows them to craft a defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case, including the decision on whether you should take the stand.

The courtroom is a stage, and the impression you make on the judge and jury is as important as the evidence presented. This means maintaining a professional demeanor and dressing appropriately for court appearances. Every aspect of your presence, from your body language to your attire, contributes to the perception of your character and the credibility of your defense.

Potential Consequences of Convictions

The potential consequences of theft and burglary convictions are sobering. Here are some examples of the potential penalties in Utah:

  • Misdemeanor theft: Up to six months in jail and fines reaching $1,000
  • Felony theft: Up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000
  • Theft of specific items (e.g. firearms or vehicles): Automatically elevated to a second-degree felony, with a corresponding increase in potential penalties
  • Burglary convictions: Penalties range from one year in county jail for a third-degree felony to fifteen years in state prison for a second-degree felony.

Beyond imprisonment and fines, those convicted may also face probation and community service, which can leave a lasting impact on one’s life. Aggravated burglary carries the most severe penalties, with a first-degree felony conviction resulting in a minimum five-year prison sentence, reflecting the gravity of the crime. These consequences highlight the importance of a strong defense and understanding the gravity of the charges brought against you.

Impact on Personal Life

The ripple effects of a conviction reach far beyond the courtroom and into the very fabric of your personal life. Crimes of dishonesty, such as theft, can close doors to employment opportunities, as employers often hesitate to hire individuals with a criminal record that suggests a propensity for dishonest behavior. The social stigma attached to a criminal record can erode personal relationships and your standing in the community, as those around you may view you through the lens of your conviction.

Rebuilding one’s life post-conviction is an uphill battle. The shadow of your criminal record can loom over aspects of daily life, from securing a job to maintaining friendships and family relationships. The stigma can be isolating, but it’s important to remember that a conviction doesn’t define you—it’s a chapter in your story, and with determination, the narrative can be changed.

Defense Strategies for Theft and Burglary Accusations

padlock, lock, chain

Crafting an effective defense against theft and burglary accusations hinges on dismantling the prosecution’s narrative when a robbery occurs. Proving a mistaken identity or a lack of intent to commit the alleged crime can be a powerful strategy. Mistaken identity, particularly in robbery cases, can be argued due to potential witness identification errors. Defenses against shoplifting charges can include claims of ignorance or accidental non-payment, which challenge the assertion of intent.

In instances where possession of stolen personal property is the charge, asserting ignorance of the items’ origins can be a viable defense, dependent on the circumstances of their acquisition. If the accusations are believed to be false, particularly in cases with a history of disputes, suggesting that the claims are manufactured could be a strategic move. The ‘mere presence’ defense can also be employed in burglary cases, distinguishing between being on the premises and actively participating in the crime.

Assessing Plea Deals

Plea deals are a nuanced aspect of the legal process, offering a potential resolution without the uncertainty of a trial. These deals often involve the defendant pleading guilty in exchange for concessions from the prosecutor, such as:

  • reduced sentences
  • lesser charges
  • a downgraded offense
  • entry into a diversion program, particularly for first-time offenders

Once a plea is accepted, retracting it is difficult, though conditional pleas may permit an appeal on pre-trial rulings.

The decision to accept a plea deal should never be taken lightly. It’s crucial to understand the full implications of the plea and to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can negotiate the terms and advise you on the best course of action. Plea deals can offer a path to a reduced sentence, but they also come with the weight of a guilty plea that will be part of your record.

Post-Conviction Considerations

A conviction for theft or burglary marks a significant turning point in one’s life, carrying long-term consequences that can reshape your future. The most immediate impact is the potential difficulty in securing employment, as criminal convictions appear in background checks and can be a considerable barrier in job applications. Education, too, can become a battleground, with convictions potentially leading to denied admissions from educational institutions, hindering aspirations and career development.

The challenges extend to finding housing, as landlords often perform background checks and may be wary of leasing to individuals with a criminal record, especially for violent felony convictions. The ramifications of a conviction go far beyond the legal penalties imposed. They seep into every corner of life, affecting your ability to find work, continue your education, and secure a place to live. This underscores the importance of a strong defense during the trial and appeals process, as well as the need for a proactive approach to rehabilitation and reintegration into society post-conviction.

Rehabilitation and Support Systems

The road to recovery and reintegration after a theft or burglary conviction is a journey that no one should walk alone. Support from friends and family can be the bedrock of emotional stability, offering encouragement and understanding as you navigate the complexities of life post-conviction. This support network is invaluable, providing a sense of normalcy and hope during times of hardship and uncertainty.

Professional counseling services can play a pivotal role in rehabilitation by:

  • Helping individuals cope with the psychological impact of a criminal charge
  • Guiding positive behavior changes
  • Providing a confidential space to address emotional and mental health challenges
  • Paving the way for a brighter future

With a solid support system, the path to redemption becomes less daunting, allowing for growth and the reclamation of one’s place in society.


In conclusion, the journey from being charged with theft or burglary to navigating the legal system and dealing with the aftermath of a conviction is fraught with challenges and decisions that can have life-altering implications. This guide has provided a roadmap through the legal terrain, outlining the importance of immediate steps, understanding the charges, crafting a strong defense, and considering the long-term impacts. Remember, with the right support and guidance, the path to overcoming these obstacles can lead to a place of understanding, growth, and ultimately, a new beginning. Let this be a beacon of hope and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first element of burglary?

The first element of burglary is “breaking,” which refers to illegally entering someone’s property without consent or authority. This can include opening an unlocked door or window.

What is the full meaning of burglary?

Burglary is the unlawful entering of a building with the intent to commit a felony or theft, and it does not necessarily involve the use of force to gain entry.

What determines the severity of a burglary?

The severity of a burglary is determined by factors such as harm caused to others, use of dangerous weapons, and biased motivations. The value of the stolen property also plays a crucial role.

Are burglary and theft the same crime?

No, burglary and theft are not the same crime. Burglary involves unlawfully entering a building to commit a theft crime, without necessarily involving violence or the threat of force.

Can I be charged with both theft and burglary for the same incident?

Yes, it is legally possible to be charged with both theft and burglary for the same incident if the actions meet the criteria for both crimes. For criminal legal representation in Utah contact: Darren Levitt of Levitt Legal.