Gone in Two Minutes: Burglary of Assault Weapons in Arizona

Burglary of firearms of any value is a felony in Arizona; depending on the value and other aggravated circumstances, convictions can result in lifetime prison sentences..Like something out of the Hollywood movies like “Ocean’s 13” or “Gone in 60 Seconds”, recently three thieves stole 13 military style rifles from C-3 Arms, a gun shop in Phoenix.

The burglary was videotaped with surveillance cameras, but the thieves were wearing bandanas and tee shirts over their faces. The three men got the front doors open, cut a security cable and removed the rifles worth about $12,000 from the store. There was additional damage to other guns worth about $12,000. The trio drove away in a white Chevy pickup.

The owner of the gun store was surprised that it took only 2 minutes for the burglars to break into the strict security system. Each gun had a serial number etched onto it. The public is being asked for tips and there is a $6000 reward for capturing the thieves and the stolen guns. The police believe the stolen guns will be used in future crimes.

If caught, the thieves will probably be charged with burglary and theft. In Arizona, criminal burglary is entering or remaining inside a building without the owner’s authorization, dwelling or fenced lot with the intent to commit a crime. Theft of items worth less than $1000 is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, theft of guns are charged as felonies regardless of the value of the guns, and in this case, because the guns were valuable, the charges and potential sentencing will be more severe.

All three categories of burglary are considered felonies in Arizona. If a conviction is obtained, these may be punished by 1 or more years of incarceration, depending upon the severity of the burglary charges. Burglary in the first degree is charged when someone possesses a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument during the burglary, whereas second-degree burglary occurs when someone has entered in a residential structure without a deadly weapon.

It isn’t clear from the news article whether the facts give rise to a first or second-degree charge. Since the burglary was most likely committed with intent to steal deadly weapons and those deadly weapons were possessed during the burglary, it might be charged as burglary in the first degree.

Burglary in the first degree of a commercial building is a Class 3 felony. (Burglary in the first degree of a residence is punished more severely as a Class 2 felony.) Assuming the prosecutor is able to secure a conviction, the thieves will face a minimum of 7 years and a maximum of 21 years in prison for the burglary conviction. The sentence will be more severe if the thieves are repeat offenders.

Theft of property worth between $3000 and $25,000 is a Class 3 felony. This means a conviction carries a potential maximum prison term of 8.75 years. The penalty may be worse if the thieves are repeat offenders or if any of the thieves are “prohibited possessors” –those who are not allowed to carry firearms. In Arizona, this includes people previously convicted of crimes involving the use of violence with deadly weapons.

Other charges may also apply because the thieves damaged other guns in the store. If you are charged with a serious crime like burglary or gun theft, an experienced criminal defense attorney can explain the charges and potential consequences. Contact the Law Office of James Novak for a careful, results-oriented defense from an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney.

Additional Resources:
Arizona Title 13 Criminal Code
2012 Crime in Arizona
Arizona sentencing for serious, violent or aggravated offenses


Aggravated Assault: The High Cost of Harming a Police Officer, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, August 3, 2012
Assault Convictions Require “Intent” and “Knowledge” or “Recklessness”, Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog, June 1, 2012

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