What You Need to Know About 1st-Degree Burglary

1st-degree burglary is a serious crime in Missouri. Here’s what you need to know if you or someone you love has been charged with burglary in the 1st degree.

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

October 29. 2021.

Understanding 1st-Degree Burglary in Missouri

When you are accused of a 1st-degree burglary in Missouri, you probably have quite a few questions, especially if you are unsure whether you did anything wrong. Generally, you can be charged with burglary if you entered or remained in a building without permission, particularly to commit a crime or mischief. 

For example, if the dwelling is one you previously resided in, but the current occupant doesn’t want you there, or you refuse to vacate after being requested to vacate, you might be accused of burglary. Those who seek shelter from inclement weather in a structure and subsequently vandalize or otherwise engage in what they consider a victimless crime may also be charged with 1st-degree burglary.

Burglary is a serious crime, and most prosecuting attorneys are unwilling to drop or reduce the charges. A meticulous defense attorney from the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center knows how to present the case in a way that may lead to a better understanding of the details surrounding it. 

Retaining Legal Services for Burglary 1st-Degree in Kansas City, MO

If you have been charged with burglary in the 1st degree, it is unlikely that the charges will be dropped, especially if a weapon was involved or the effecting entry caused physical injury to one or more occupants. Often the only way to even have the charges reduced is to prove the inaccuracy of the claims. 

Police officers are human and occasionally make mistakes severe enough to make a claim inadmissible. Even if the accusation seems to only lead to an apparent conviction, experienced criminal defense lawyers will examine the evidence and everything law enforcement officers have done regarding the case. 

Since self-incriminating statements are often the strongest evidence, the accused must observe their Miranda Rights, particularly their right to remain silent. Without being blatantly caught in the act, a confession makes waging a winning defense difficult.

What Class Is Burglary 1st-Degree Charge?

There are several ways in which you may accidentally or erroneously be accused of burglary, and if you find yourself in that situation, you want to know what class a burglary 1st-degree charge is. It is difficult to mistakenly be charged with 1st-degree burglary since, according to Chapter 569 of Title XXXVIII Crimes and Punishment, it requires that one enters the premises with a certain level of expectation and preparation to harm if necessary. Of course, misunderstandings regarding intent may occur.

Based on RSMo 569.160, a 1st-degree burglary occurs when any person knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in an inhabitable structure to do the following:

  1. Commit a crime
  2. Is armed with a deadly weapon
  3. Causes or threatens injury to another

If another person, not participating in the crime, is present in the structure or the alleged criminals fleeing the crime cause injury to another, this person or group commits burglary in the 1st degree.

Is Burglary 1st-Degree Class A Felony or Misdemeanor?

Since the legal ramifications can be vastly different, you will want to know whether your situation is a burglary 1st-degree Class A felony or misdemeanor.

  • In Missouri, burglary 1st-degree is a Class B felony. However, depending on the level of violence enacted upon the occupants, burglary may be charged as a Class A felony criminal offense.
  • Second-degree burglary is charged as a Class D felony that involves a person illegally entering or remaining in a building to commit a crime. It is unlikely a crime of violence and usually involves an unoccupied structure. Although it is still considered a felony, it doesn’t receive the same level of repercussions.
  • A third-degree burglary may be an option for the prosecutor if many of the elements of first-degree burglary are inexistent in the case.
  • Fourth-degree burglary is often charged when someone steals from or unlawfully enters into a fenced-in connecting area, such as a yard.
  • Additionally, if certain elements are missing, you may instead face the misdemeanor charge of trespass.

A burglary 1st-degree charge is severe and requires several provable elements for prosecutors to win the case in court. A skilled criminal action defense lawyer will attempt to cause reasonable doubt in the court’s eyes to obtain an acquittal or reduced charges.

Understanding the Elements of 1st-Degree Burglary

Many elements of a 1st-degree burglary or theft may dictate the outcome of your case. For example, there must be intent by the person entering the building or structure to commit a crime. This is easily proven if the defendant commits a crime while in the structure, usually but not restricted to stealing.

If they were interrupted before committing a crime, proving that the evidence isn’t circumstantial becomes more difficult. It can also become challenging to prove that a person was aware that they were entering a structure they shouldn’t.

Burglary laws protect a range of structures. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Apartments
  • Barns and storage units
  • Boats, campers, and RVs
  • Houses
  • Factories
  • Stores
  • Tents
  • Vehicles

Depending on the circumstances, it may be difficult for prosecutors to obtain a 1st-degree burglary conviction where a person mistakenly enters the tent or RV of another when stumbling around in a dark campground. Much is contingent on the other elements.

What Are the Elements of the Crime of Burglary?

When you or a family member is charged, you may be asking, “What are the elements of the crime of burglary?” of which you need to be most aware. One thing to be aware of is that all of the first-degree elements do not need to be present for the entire crime.

These may include the defendant picking up a knife or other deadly weapon present in the building. Another possibility is if the owner or resident interrupts the crime but isn’t there at its beginning. If the person not committing the crime inadvertently suffers physical injury during the defendant’s immediate flight therefrom, it is also burglary in the first degree.

Receiving a 1st-Degree Burglary Sentence

A 1st-degree burglary sentence is a grave matter with long-reaching consequences. A Class B felony, it is punishable for five to 15 years in prison. Second-degree burglary is a Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years. 

The potential fines for each are up to $10,000 or twice the amount the defendant might gain from the crime and related offenses.


How Much Time Do You Get for Burglary 1st-Degree?

You might receive many consequences upon conviction, so how much time do you get for burglary in the 1st degree? Along with prison time and fines, you also have the life-long consequence of a criminal record.

If the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions or could be considered a “dangerous offender,” they will probably receive a sentence for the next higher class of felony upon being convicted of a burglary.

Can 1st-Degree Burglary Be Expunged?

Although many people believe a conviction or acquittal is the end of their criminal case, others wonder if a 1st-degree burglary can be expunged. 

A person convicted of a 1st-degree burglary is not eligible for expungement in Missouri. Someone who was found guilty of a lesser burglary charge is qualified for expungement after completing the terms of their sentence.

Moving Past a First-Degree Burglary Sentence

Whether you were guilty of the crime, it was a temporary lapse of judgment, or you were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, moving past a first-degree burglary sentence is something you will eventually be able to do.

Working with a qualified lawyer as soon as you receive your criminal charges allows you time to develop a robust attorney-client relationship, which ensures you can begin building a solid strategy. Ready to get started? The contact form for the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center sends information to their reputable attorneys, who will set you up with a free consultation.

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