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See if you can figure out who is, or isn’t guilty of burglary first under Alabama law.

Posted by Andrew Segal | Oct 05, 2020 | 0 Comments


On Monday, Bill decides to break into his neighbor's home to steal a coin collection. He uses a crowbar to jimmy the lock and puts the crowbar back in his jacket when he goes into the house. Would Bill be guilty of burglary, first?

Yes. Under Alabama law burglary, first is committed when somebody enters a dwelling with intent to commit a crime, and they are armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. Bill intended to steal, and the crowbar would be considered either a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon. Bill is guilty of first-degree burglary.


Let's change the facts. On Tuesday, Bill breaks into his neighbor's home by lifting a window that was not fully closed. The neighbors aren't home, and Bill goes into his neighbor's bedroom and steals his neighbor's revolver. Is Bill guilty of burglary in the 1st°?

No. Alabama law says that using a deadly weapon does not include the simple acquisition of a deadly weapon during the burglary.


On Wednesday, Bill decides to go back to his neighbors because he saw a beanie baby he wanted for his collection. Bill breaks and again, and while looking for the beanie baby, Bill hears a noise. He picks out a butcher knife from the kitchen table. Bill's neighbor is home and walks in on Bill. Bill threatens the neighbor with the butcher knife. Is Bill guilty of burglary in the first?

Yes. Alabama law states that if someone uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument against another person while in the dwelling or in flight from the dwelling, they have committed burglary, first.


Q. On Thursday, Bill breaks into another neighbor's home to steal this neighbor's Auburn hat. While Bill is in the home, he is confronted by his neighbor, Pat. Bill punches Pat in the face and makes a run for it, leaving the Auburn hat behind. Is Bill guilty of burglary first?

A. Yes. It's not required that Bill "get away" with whatever it was he intended to steal; for it to be a burglary, Bill only needs the intent to commit a crime in the dwelling. Because Bill caused injury to somebody who was not participating in the crime, under Alabama law, Bill has committed burglary first.


On Friday, July 4, Bills neighbor Ned invites the neighbors, including Bill, to his home to shoot off fireworks and have drinks. Ned tells everyone that he has to get up for work early the next day, and everyone must leave by midnight. Bill hides in the back bedroom until after midnight and waits for Ne to fall asleep. Bill plans to steal Ned's cat. Bill forgot that he had a firecracker left in his pocket from the previous Fourth of July party. Bill steals the cat, which claws him as soon as he leaves. This gets the attention of a police officer patrolling the neighborhood, and Bill is immediately apprehended. Is Bill guilty of burglary first?

A. Bill is not guilty of burglary in the first degree, but he is guilty of burglary in the second degree. Under Alabama law, a person who breaks into (or remains in) a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime is guilty of burglary first if they are armed with an explosive. A person who enters or remains in a dwelling with the intent to commit a theft or any other felony is guilty of burglary in the second degree. If Bill had a firecracker in his pocket, which is certainly capable of exploding, why is he not guilty of burglary in the first degree? Because Alabama law specifically excludes common firecrackers from the legal definition of an explosive. So, under these facts, Bill is guilty of burglary, second.

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About the Author

Andrew Segal

Andrew Segal is a former judge and prosecutor who now represents the accused as a criminal defense attorney in Huntsville, Alabama, area courts. Andrew graduated cum laude from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1982. and Washington College of Law at American University in 1988.


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