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New York Appellate Court Holds Evidence Was Insufficient to Sustain Defendant’s Burglary Conviction

In order to convict someone of a crime in New York, the prosecution must establish each element of the offense. Under New York law, a burglary occurs when a person “knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein. Thus, in the case of a New York burglary charge, the prosecution must establish that the defendant 1.) knowingly entered or unlawfully remained 2.) in a building 3.) with the intent to commit a crime therein.

If the prosecution is unable to establish each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then a defendant cannot be convicted of that offense. However, prosecutors typically charge multiple similar crimes, so if they are cannot convict a defendant of the lead charge they will still attempt to convict on a lesser charge. A recent state appellate decision illustrates this concept in the context of a burglary charge.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant allegedly assaulted a 14-year old girl and, as he was fleeing from the police, entered a person’s home without permission. While he was inside the house, the defendant allegedly stole several articles of clothing.

Later, the defendant was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal trespass, and offenses related to the alleged assault of the girl. At trial, the prosecution attempted to use the defendant’s entrance into the home to show his consciousness of guilt. The prosecution argued that the defendant entered the home as he was fleeing police and then, once he was inside, decided to steal some clothes. The case proceeded to trial, and the defendant was convicted of burglary, endangering the welfare of a child, and two counts of theft. The defendant appealed his burglary conviction.

On appeal, the court reversed the defendant’s burglary conviction, finding that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient. The court explained that, to find the defendant guilty of burglary, the prosecution must show that “at the time of the unlawful entry, [the] defendant must have harbored a contemporaneous criminal intent.”

Here, the court explained that under the prosecution’s own theory, the defendant did not form the intent to steal the articles of clothing until after he had entered the home. Thus, at the time the defendant entered the home, there was not a “contemporaneous criminal intent.” Therefore, the burglary charge could not stand.

The court went on to explain that the evidence as legally sufficient to establish the elements of criminal trespass, and reduced the defendant’s conviction accordingly.

Have You Been Arrested for a New York Crime?

If you have recently been charged with a New York crime, contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at the law firm of Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, we represent individuals facing all types New York criminal charges and have been doing so for more than 25 years. To learn more about how we can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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