What is Burglary of a Motor Vehicle?
Burglary of a motor vehicle (or “BMV”) is defined in Texas Penal Code Section 30.04 as breaking into or entering a vehicle without the owner’s consent with intent to commit a felony or a theft.
Burglary of a Motor Vehicle is considered a crime of opportunity. It often occurs in store parking lots, outside daycares or in neighborhoods when property is left inside parked vehicles, sometimes in plain sight.
Breaking into (or even reaching into) someone’s vehicle can result in time behind bars, especially if the defendant is a repeat offender. As a result, anyone charged with a BMV should reach out to a Fort Worth car burglary lawyer for help. An experienced attorney can explain your options and work to get you the best outcome.
What does it mean to “enter” for a BMV?
For this type of offense, “entering” means to intrude any part of the body or any physical object connected to the body into the vehicle. Entry must be in the enclosed portion of the vehicle and not the outside of the vehicle. Here are two examples – one that would be considered BMV and another that would be considered theft.
- Bob has the intent to remove property from Sam’s truck and he reaches into the open bed of Sam’s truck and takes some tools. This will be “entering a vehicle” for purposes of this crime and considered BMV.
- Bob removes hubcaps from Sam’s truck without his consent, but he does not make an entry into Sam’s truck. This will not be considered entry for purposes of this crime. This offense would likely be classified as theft.
It’s important to point out that it is also considered BMV for people to enter an unlocked vehicle and take property with owner’s consent – even if no property damage occurred.
“Consent” and “Intent” Requirements
For this crime to occur, Texas law requires that there be no effective consent of the owner. Similar to burglary of a coin-operated machine, there also has to be intent to commit a felony or theft. These two must occur simultaneously.
- For example, a hiker who breaks into a vehicle to find shelter from a storm, and then discovers and takes a blanket from the vehicle has not committed burglary of a motor vehicle. The entering and intent to steal did not occur at the same time.
The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, without the consent of the owner, the defendant entered a vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or theft.
What are the Possible Defenses to a BMV Charge?
There are several possible defenses for someone charged with burglary of a motor vehicle in Texas including but not limited to:
- No intent to commit a felony or theft;
- Consent of the owner to enter the vehicle;
- Mistaken identity;
- Lack of evidence
The most susceptible element to attack is the intent requirement because the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit a theft or a felony when he or she entered the vehicle. Our team of Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers regularly handle these types of cases and will find the best possible defense strategy for you or your loved one.
What is the Punishment for Burglary of a Motor Vehicle?
This crime is classified as a Class A Misdemeanor, the highest level misdemeanor offense in Texas. There are several types of penalties involved for this type of crime that can be either combined or ordered separately: fines, jail, probation, and restitution.
- Fines: Class A Misdemeanor offense in Texas has a potential fine of up to $4,000.
- Jail: Convictions for a Class A misdemeanor offense can result in up to a year in a county jail. Jail sentences can be imposed in addition to fines or they can be given as a separate punishment.
- For Example: A Texas court may sentence someone convicted of a burglary of a motor vehicle to a $1,000 fine, while someone else also convicted of the same crime my get 60 days in jail.
- Restitution: This type of a penalty is common when someone commits a crime that results in property damage or the loss of property. If ordered restitution, one must pay a specific amount of money that is designed to compensate the owner for the loss of property or the expenses associated with the damage. Restitution must be paid in addition to any fines or jail time.
- Probation: Probation sentences may last up to two years with the possibility of extension. The court will require a person on probation to comply with a wide range of probation conditions such as maintaining employment, not committing more crimes, reporting to a probation officer, paying all fines and restitution and performing community service. Violation of probation can result in additional penalties, such as increased fines or having to serve the remainder of the sentence in jail.
What if Someone has Been Convicted Before for BMV?
Defendants who have been previously convicted of burglary of a motor vehicle, or individuals who break into vehicles to steal drugs, face harsher punishment than other offenders.
- If an individual has been previously convicted of burglary of a vehicle, the punishment is a Class A Misdemeanor with a minimum term of confinement of six months in jail. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
- If an individual has been been previously convicted of burglary of a vehicle two or more times, the punishment is a state jail felony, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail facility.
- If an individual enters or breaks into a rail car, the punishment is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in a state jail facility.
- If an individual enters or breaks into a vehicle to steal a controlled substance, the punishment is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 year in prison.
Fort Worth Burglary of a Motor Vehicle Defense
Unlike robbery, the crime of burglary rarely involves a confrontation between the perpetrator and the victim, meaning investigators must resort to piecing together circumstantial evidence. A lot of times, law enforcement will arrest an individual based on assumptions instead of evidence. The most common issues in these types of cases are statements by the accused, physical evidence such as blood or fingerprints, and the intent of the defendant.
When facing a criminal conviction in a circumstantial case, it’s imperative for a team of experienced criminal attorneys to thoroughly investigate your case and develop a strategy that will result in the best possible outcome.
Our team of experienced Fort Worth car burglary lawyers are ready and able to defend your burglary of a vehicle charge. Our team has hundreds of jury trials worth of experience and three of our attorneys are board-certified in criminal law. If you have been charged with burglary of a motor vehicle, it’s important to contact us as soon as possible so we can begin working on your case.