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Guns Stolen From Judge’s Car in Elizabeth New Jersey

Elizabeth NJ Car Burglary Defense Attorney

A car burglary involving some very unique facts recently occurred in Elizabeth New Jersey. The victim was a judge whose car was broken into and three guns stolen from the vehicle. You may ask: Why would a municipal judge have a need to keep not one, but three, guns in his car? The answer to that question is unclear. The thieves also made off with a GPS system, six credit and debit cards, and the driver’s license of the judge.

The investigation is ongoing, and in the last week, it was reported that two of the three guns were recovered. Guns included a Kel-Tec .380 caliber auto pistol, a Springfield .40 caliber pistol, and a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver. The guns were apparently in a locked box in the back seat of the car.

The victim and police were first alerted to something amiss when, fraud alerts began hitting the judge’s cell phone.  It appears that someone tried to use his credit and debit cards at the train station in Elizabeth. One person has since been charged with the crime.

This case does serve as a cautionary tale that you should be sure to keep your wallet with you, and bring it into the house after you park your car at home. Of course, there is that lingering question as to why a judge would be driving around with three guns in the back seat of a car. The case also highlights the crime of burglary.

Burglary in Union County

People often confuse the terms burglary and theft, thinking that burglary involves stealing something. In fact, they are different offenses but often accompany one another. Specifically, burglary is the act of breaking into something with the intent to commit a crime. Theft, by contrast, is the actual taking of something that does not belong to you.

It is common that a person who commits burglary does it with the intent to steal something, but the burglary is simply the breaking in, not the actual theft. In sum, the easy way to understand burglary is to see it as a “breaking and entering plus intent.” In fact, the “intent” element is what separates the offense of breaking and entering from the offense of burglary.

The burglary law in New Jersey can be found at N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. It states, in relevant part:

A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein or thereon he:

Enters a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof unless the structure was at the time open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter;
Surreptitiously remains in a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so; or
Trespasses in or upon utility company property where public notice prohibiting trespass is given by conspicuous posting, or fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.

b. Grading. Burglary is a crime of the second degree if in the course of committing the offense, the actor:

Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone; or
Is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon.

Otherwise burglary is a crime of the third degree. An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing” an offense if it occurs in an attempt to commit an offense or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission.

Understanding the Burglary Statute

The burglary statute essentially provides that it is burglary to enter a structure without permission, and with the intent to commit an offense in the structure. Applied to the judge’s case above, the “structure” in that case was the judge’s car. The offender committed burglary by entering the car without permission, with the intent to steal what was in the car. The intent is demonstrated by the fact that items were actually taken from the car, namely three guns and credit cards.

So, what is the penalty if convicted of burglary? As the statute provides, burglary is typically a third-degree offense, unless the burglar inflicted, or attempted to inflict, bodily injury on someone or was armed with explosives or a deadly weapon at the time of the burglary. If those aggravated factors are present, then the burglary becomes a crime in the second degree.

Third-degree burglary has potential penalties of three to five years in prison, and up to a $15,000 fine. Second-degree burglary has potential penalties of five to ten years in prison, and up to a $150,000 fine.

Burglary Criminal Lawyers in Union County

With potential jail time of at least three years in prison, burglary is one of the more serious crimes in New Jersey. As such, if you have been charged with burglary you need representation from an experienced attorney. We invite you to learn more about what the criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can do for you. We have been in practice for decades and have a proven track record of success representing our clients in burglary cases. Call us for a free initial consultation. Our Cranford office can be reached at 908-272-1700.