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Legal defenses to burglary and robbery

A previous blog post discussed the potential penalties for burglary and robbery and the differences between the two. Those accused of burglary or robbery should also know the legal defenses that may be asserted in response to the accusation of such a serious crime.

Legal defenses may be claimed when facing charges of either burglary or robbery such as innocence, lack of intent and entrapment. First, defendants may claim that they are innocent of the crime. The prosecution bears the burden of proving that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, a defendant may cast reasonable doubt upon the prosecution's case and avoid conviction.

Defendants may also show that they were not able to form the necessary intent to commit the crime. Both burglary and robbery require specific intent, either to commit a crime once illegal entry into a building has been obtained or to take someone else's property by putting them in fear. If, for example, a defendant could not form such specific intent because he was intoxicated, then the intent element of the crime is not met.

An entrapment defense may be used to show that defendants were pushed to commit crimes they otherwise would not have committed. This defense will only work if defendants can prove that they did not intend to, and would not have, committed the crime but for the entrapment.

Another possible legal defense to robbery is that of duress. To prove duress, defendants must show that someone forced them to commit a robbery against their will by threatening them with bodily injury or death. This defense is generally difficult to prove and rejected by many courts.

Possibly the most common defense to burglary is consent. To prove consent, defendants must show that they had consent to enter the property, therefore their entry was not unauthorized or illegal.

Which legal defense to assert, or whether to assert any at all, depends on the details of each case. Anyone facing burglary, robbery or charges for other felonies will need to consider the applicability of each legal defense to the circumstances of their particular case.

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