A D.C. man has been arrested in connection with dozens of commercial burglaries in Maryland, and authorities say he might be connected to dozens more in the district.
Our D.C. burglary defense lawyers know that while the suspect isn't accused of anything violent, a case like this is high stakes, based on the sheer volume of crimes alleged.
We're dealing essentially with two different crimes here: burglary and theft.
Let's start with burglary, as defined in D.C. Criminal Code 22-801(a) and (b). First-degree burglary deals primarily with dwellings that were occupied by other humans at the time you entered. In this case, we're talking about commercial structures, and in these cases, whether or not they are occupied, it will be considered a second-degree burglary. This charge is still a felony offense, which is punishable by between 2 to 15 years in prison.
Next, we have theft charges. Per D.C. Criminal Code 22-3211 and 22-3212, we know that theft is the taking of another person's property for the suspect's own benefit or for the benefit of some other third party. Penalties for theft are going to depend on the amount of property stolen. Anything over $1,000 will be considered first-degree theft, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If the value is less than $1,000, it's considered a second-degree theft, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail.
So let's assume this individual is convicted for 12 counts of second-degree burglary and 12 counts of second-degree theft. We would be talking about a potential maximum penalty that would exceed the rest of his life in prison.
With the help of a good lawyer, it's possible many of those charges could be dropped and he may not serve more than probation, if that. It all depends on the weight of the evidence against him.
This case was kick-started by a marked increase in commercial burglary reports earlier this year. For this reason, local police agencies dedicated special resources to solving these cases, which they now say were mostly connected to this one individual, who is on probation for similar crimes in Virginia.
Authorities say he used a flathead screwdriver to gain entry to businesses and office buildings, from which he took cellphones, laptops, computers and other electronic devices. He also reportedly stole gift cards and credit cards, making several purchases from Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret and H&M.
What will be a special hurdle for the defense in these cases is the fact that many of these places that were burglarized were equipped with surveillance cameras. Further, in at least two of the break-ins, witnesses reportedly spotted him and were able to describe his appearance to investigators.
How difficult this evidence will be to overcome will depend on the quality of those videos, as well as the reliability of those witnesses. There is a good chance that a decent attorney could successfully suppress evidence of his prior burglary convictions, as it could prejudice a jury against him, but one doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other.