Burglary of a motor vehicle is a common offense in Tarrant County and throughout the state of Texas. When people think of car burglaries, they often think of smash-and-grabs – someone breaking a car window and taking off with a purse, bag or computer left in plain sight. However, it’s possible to be convicted of BMV even if nothing is taken at all.
If you or a loved one is facing a burglary of a motor vehicle charge in Tarrant County, our team of experienced defense attorneys will advocate on your behalf and help you navigate the complex court system. Our firm is comprised of attorneys who have decades of experience – first as Tarrant county prosecutors and now as highly-skilled defense attorneys who will ensure you have the strongest defense possible.
What is burglary of a vehicle in Texas?
Burglary of a vehicle is defined in Texas Penal Code §30.04 as breaking into or entering a vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or a theft without the owner’s consent. The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted of Tarrant County burglary of a vehicle:
- Entry into the vehicle
- Intent to commit felony or theft
- Lack of effective consent
Entry into the Vehicle: The prosecution must prove that a vehicle was entered as defined by Texas law. According to the Texas Penal Code, “enter” means to intrude any part of the body or any physical object connected with the body into the motor vehicle. Entry can only occur in the enclosed space in a motor vehicle. For example:
- Taking an item through a car’s open window or the bed of a pickup truck would be considered entry
- Taking a license plate would not be considered entry because it is not in an enclosed space, but rather is on the outside of the car
- Use of force is not necessary – opening an unlocked vehicle is sufficient for entry
Intent to Commit a Felony or Theft: The prosecution must prove that the breaking into or entering happened in conjunction with the intent to commit a felony. In other words, it must have been simultaneous – meaning that the reason behind the entry must have been to commit a felony or theft.
Lack of Effective Consent: The prosecution must prove that the vehicle owner did not give the defendant consent to enter his or her vehicle.
If all three elements are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there’s an excellent chance your Tarrant County burglary of a motor vehicle charge can be defeated by our experienced Tarrant County defense attorneys.
What are the penalties for burglary of a motor vehicle?
Burglary of a motor vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor, which means a person charged with this offense may face up to a year in jail and a $4000 fine. Committing BMV in order to steal drugs in punished harsher.
The punishment can be enhanced if Tarrant County prosecutors can prove that you have been convicted before for burglary of a motor vehicle. Previous deferred adjudication pleas for burglary of a motor vehicle are also considered as convictions for purposes of this enhancement. Enhanced penalties include:
- 1 prior conviction > minimum jail term of 6 months
- 2+ prior convictions > Up to 2 years in state jail and maximum $10,000 fine
- Breaking into or entering a vehicle owned or operated by a distributor of prescription drugs > 2 to 10 years in prison
- Breaking into or entering a rail car > up to 2 years in state jail
Alternatively, a court may choose to order a probation sentence up to, but not limited to, two years. Probation conditions often include refraining from all criminal activity, being employed, passing drug tests, reporting to a probation officer, performing community service and paying all fines. Additionally, a court may order restitution as a condition of probation, meaning you would have to compensate the owner for expenses associated with damage or pay the owner for loss of property, whichever is applicable.
If probation is violated, you may face additional penalties like increased fines or having to serve jail time.
What are the possible defenses for burglary of a motor vehicle?
If you or someone you love is facing a Tarrant County burglary of vehicle charge, several defenses are possible, such as lack of evidence, lack of intent to commit a felony or theft, having consent of the owner to enter the vehicle, or mistaken identity, among others. These examples are not an exhaustive list as no single defense is universally applicable. Our experienced team of Tarrant County criminal defense lawyers will help you explore all your options and find the defense best suited for your unique position.
Can someone be charged with BMV if he or she didn’t actually steal anything?
A person can be charged with burglary of a motor vehicle in Tarrant County even if he or she did not actually steal anything. Theft is not a necessary element of BMV but rather, a prosecutor only has to prove that you entered with vehicle without consent and with intent to commit a felony or theft.
What if the BMV occurred while the vehicle was in someone’s garage?
If a person entered an open garage to commit burglary of a motor vehicle, the charge and consequences could potentially be more serious. It’s likely the charge would be burglary of habitation, which is generally a second-degree felony carrying a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Under Texas law, “entry into a habitation” occurs if any part of an individual’s body entered the habitation or any physical object connected to the individual entered the habitation. In other words, it is possible to be charged with burglary of a habitation without actually setting foot inside a home. Habitation is defined as a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons, and includes:
- each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; and
- each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.
Again, theft is not a necessary element of burglary of a habitation or vehicle. A prosecutor only has to prove that a person entered without consent and with intent to commit a felony or theft.
What’s the difference between burglary of a vehicle and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle?
Generally speaking, burglary of a motor vehicle refers to when a person enters a car with felonious intent and without the owner’s consent. BMV is punished as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $4000 fine and up to a year in county jail.
Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is a more serious offense. UUMV refers to when a person intentionally or knowingly operates a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission as found in the Texas Penal Code Title 7: Offenses Against Property, Chapter 31: Theft, Section 31.07. Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is punishable as state jail felony punishable with up to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
What should you do if you’ve been arrested for Tarrant County burglary of a vehicle?
Sometimes, car burglary charges stem from pranks, misunderstandings or misidentifications. If you’ve been arrested for BMV in Tarrant County, it’s imperative that you contact a Tarrant County burglary of a vehicle lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier you retain counsel, the earlier the attorney can get to work on your case. Our team of attorneys has decades of experience and an impressive record of success. Call today for a free consultation.