Burglary Penalties and Sentencing
After a jury has returned a conviction for burglary, the trial goes back to the judge for the sentencing phase. Judges craft sentences for crimes based on the language of the relevant statutes and the facts of the case. In a burglary case, the degree of the burglary charge will also influence the sentence that a judge imposes.
Burglary statutes will generally contain several options for judges to consider when they create a sentence. Sometimes the statutes will list several distinct sentences (one year, two years or three years, for example) and sometimes they will contain a range of years and judges can pick any amount of time that falls within that range. Statutes could also contain alternative sentences, such as fines.
To select the actual sentence, judges will consider these statutory ranges in addition to any aggravating and mitigating factors that might be present in the case. Aggravating factors are those things surrounding the case that tend to make it a more serious matter, such as the presence of a particularly vulnerable victim or the defendants leadership role in the crime.
Mitigating factors, on the other hand, influence judges to reduce the severity of the sentences they hand down. A defendants lack of a criminal record and willingness to accept responsibility for the offense are both mitigating factors that will help the defendant argue for a lesser sentence.
Heres an example of how it all works in practice:
New York has three degrees of burglary: first degree, second degree and third degree. The possible sentences for a first degree burglary conviction range from one to 25 years. Second degree burglary is subject to a one to 15 year sentence, and judges can set any third degree burglary sentence up to seven years.
A jury has just convicted Doug the Defendant of second degree burglary after he broke into his neighbors house and stole a laptop. The judge could order a sentence anywhere between one and 15 years. The conviction is Dougs first and he has demonstrated genuine contrition. Moreover, the neighbor knows Doug and writes a letter to the judge telling him that Doug is a good person who has just fallen on hard times.
Taking all of these factors into account, the judge decides that an 18-month sentence is appropriate and hands this sentence down to Doug at the end of the sentencing hearing.