Arizona Burglary Penalties and Defenses

Experienced Maricopa County Criminal Defense Lawyer Committed to Defending Clients Facing Felony Breaking and Entering Charges

Burglary is a serious property crime involving unauthorized entry onto another’s property with the intent to commit a theft or felony while on the property. While there are three types of burglary in Arizona, each is considered a felony. Thus, regardless of the degree of burglary you’ve been charged with, it is imperative that you understand the Arizona burglary penalties and defenses.

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Maricopa County criminal defense lawyer has more than 25 years of hands-on experience aggressively defending the rights of clients charged with burglary and other property crimes. We are intimately familiar with the Arizona burglary penalties and defenses and what it takes to secure the best possible outcome in even the toughest cases.

Arizona Burglary Penalties

Burglary is a serious crime in Arizona, which is reflected in the penalties that come along with a conviction.

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary is treated as a class 2 or class 3 felony, depending on whether it involves a residential structure (class 2) or a nonresidential structure (class 3). For class 2 felonies, you’ll face between 4 to 10 years in prison. However, if there are aggravating factors, such as prior convictions or the use of a weapon, the prison time can increase up to 12.5 years.

If convicted of a class 3 felony, the penalty ranges from 2 to 7 years in prison, with a maximum of 8.75 years if aggravating circumstances are present.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary involves a residential structure and is always a class 3 felony.

The prison sentence ranges from 2 to 7 years. In cases with aggravating factors, the sentence can go up to 8.75 years.

Third-Degree Burglary

This degree of burglary is a class 4 felony when it involves a nonresidential structure or a fenced commercial yard and a class 6 felony when the offense involves a vehicle. For a class 4 felony, the penalty is generally 1 to 3.75 years in prison. For a class 6 felony, the sentence is usually 0.5 to 2 years.

In addition to prison time, if you are convicted of burglary in Arizona, you will also face substantial fines, up to $150,000, depending on the felony class and the specifics of the case.

Defenses in an Arizona Burglary Case

If you’ve been charged with burglary, it’s important you understand all the possible defenses that might apply in your case. While every case is unique, below are some of the best burglary defenses:

Lack of Intent

In a burglary case, proving that you didn’t intend to commit a theft or any felony once inside the structure is a strong defense. For example, if you entered a building because you mistakenly thought you were allowed to be there or if you were seeking shelter and did not plan to steal anything or commit any other crime, this could negate the “intent” element required for a burglary conviction.

Mistaken Identity

Another possible defense is mistaken identity. If you can show that you were not the person who committed the burglary, perhaps through an alibi or by demonstrating that the evidence pointing to you is flawed (like unclear security footage or unreliable witness testimony), you can challenge the accusations against you. Establishing that someone else committed the crime or that you were elsewhere when the crime occurred can be key to your defense.

Consent to Enter

If you had permission to be on the property, this could also be a valid defense against burglary charges. Consent can be shown through direct permission from the owner or a representative or through circumstances implying you were allowed to enter. This defense challenges the accusation that your presence was unlawful, a necessary component of a burglary charge.


Claiming duress means that you were forced to commit the burglary under threat of immediate harm to yourself or someone else. If you can prove that you were under duress, such as being threatened or coerced by someone else to commit the crime, this can excuse your unlawful actions. Demonstrating that you had no realistic alternative but to comply with the demands can help in defending against the charges.

Are You Charged with Burglary in Maricopa County?

If you were recently arrested and charged with a burglary offense, it is essential that you understand what’s on the line and what you can do to prevent a conviction. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Phoenix burglary defense lawyer has over 25 years of experience defending the rights, freedoms, and futures of clients charged with all types of burglary crimes, including home invasion burglaries. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call the Law Office of James E. Novak at 480-413-1499. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form.

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I was facing criminal charges with three priors in my history. Mr Novak was very helpful and got me a lighter sentence than I probably deserved. He is a great attorney and I would highly recommend him. A. T.
James worked tirelessly behind the scenes with the prosecution, to decrease my son’s charges to a more reasonable penalty. I could not have asked for a better, more professional attorney. He treated my son with the utmost respect and walked him through every step of a very difficult situation. S. G.
Attorney Novak did an outstanding job defending my son. Due to his extensive professional background within the court system, he was successfully able to defend my son during a very difficult time for my family. I highly recommend Attorney James Novak for your legal needs. T. G.