To the uninitiated, the crimes of burglary and robbery may be difficult to distinguish. Both are serious crimes, carrying with them potentially severe criminal punishment, including jail time, particularly when it involves the use of a gun. They are, nevertheless, two different crimes. A person guilty of one may not necessarily be guilty of the other. In Ducas v. State, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal explains the difference between burglary and robbery, particularly as the former relates to an alleged crime committed in a public place.

Appellant Jules Ducas was convicted on three counts of armed robbery and one count of armed burglary stemming from an incident in which he allegedly entered a Miami-Dade CVS pharmacy overnight, walked to the check-out counter and pulled a gun on the clerk, demanding money from the register. When the clerk refused, explaining that the register could not be opened without tender, Ducas allegedly turned the gun on two women who had just entered the store and demanded they give money to the clerk in order to open the register. The women complied, handing over money to the clerk, who opened the register, emptied it and gave the money to Ducas, who then fled.

On appeal, Ducas argued that he should have been acquitted of the burglary charge because the incident occurred in a public place.

While the crime of robbery generally entails taking another person’s property by use of force, violence, assault or threats, the court explained that

Burglary is currently defined (for crimes committed after July 1, 2001) as entering a dwelling, structure, or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises at the time are open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter…

Thus, according to the court, “entry onto premises open to the public is a complete defense to a charge of burglary,” except in cases where “a crime takes place in a private or closed area of a place that is generally open to the public.”

The court compared the current case to Colbert v. State, in which the Fourth District reversed a burglary conviction for a defendant who smashed a jewelry store display case and stole its contents, ruling that the defendant could be convicted of robbery, but not burglary. “There, as here, the area was indisputably open to the public,” the court ruled.

Ducas was therefore entitled to a complete defense against the burglary charge, the court ruled, reversing his conviction on this charge while affirming his conviction on three counts of robbery.

A burglary charge is a serious felony and a conviction can significantly hinder your future employment opportunities, reputation and future. If you are currently facing a burglary charge in Florida, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine as soon as possible. The attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are dedicated to providing clients with aggressive, competent and high-quality representation. The attorneys at Anidjar & Levine understand that a Florida criminal conviction will put your future on the line and fight hard to defend your rights and interests.

Related blog posts:

Court in Burglary Case Disapproves Evidence of Defendant’s Previous Crimes – Nshaka v. State

Can Police Use Your Silence Against You? Supreme Court Decides not to Decide

Florida Court Explains the Rules for Using Evidence of Previous Convictions in a Criminal Drug Trial – U.S. v. Ricketts