Camp Counselor Arrested for Entering Teens’ Cabin

November 29, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes

When people imagine a burglary, it is usually based off of pop-culture or TV references of someone in all black sneaking into a home. In Florida, burglary charges are more complicated than that and have different penalties depending on the type of environment where the “burglary” occurred.  

This article will provide information on burglary charges for an occupied dwelling, along with a recent example case in Florida.

What was the Incident?

Raul Mora-Yanez, 25, has been arrested in Plantation, Florida after being accused of burglary of an occupied dwelling. According to the report, three teenage girls were spending the night at the Circle F Ranch in Lake Wales for a special father-daughter program.

During the middle of the night, one of the teens woke up to find a man (Mora-Yanez) standing over her body. The girl immediately pulled out her phone to call her father, who was staying in another cabin across the property. Once Mora-Yanez realized the girl had woken up, he hid under the bed.

The teen decided to start recording on her phone, with the video later released to police to help identify the man in the cabin. During the video, the girls can be heard whispering and trying to hold it together until their fathers arrived.

“I’m scared,” one of the girls said. “My hands are shaking.”

Over the phone, the father asked his daughter if the front door was unlocked, to which she responded that it was. Mora-Yanez then jumped up from under the bed and fled. The girl’s description along with the video image of a man wearing an alien hoodie led police to Mora-Yanez, who worked on the ranch.

Deputies charged Mora-Yanez with burglary of an occupied dwelling. The suspect claimed he had been drinking and went for a walk when he entered the cabin, thinking it was empty. Mora-Yanez claimed that the door was unlocked, but deputies say it was not. The suspect did obtain a key to the cabin due to his job at the camp.

“It’s concerning, it’s frightening, it’s disturbing,” said Eric Schwartzreich. “They have been emotionally traumatized.”

Now the teens’ families are concerned about the suspect’s phone since the police returned it after Mora-Yanez bonded out of jail. “If someone is in a cabin, if there is a phone and he is standing over the girls, what are the intentions?” Schwartzreich asked. “Is there video voyeurism? Is he videoing? We don’t know.”

One of the spokespersons from Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is still open and ongoing. The ranch’s owner said Mora-Yanez was a former camper and that they feel “upset and disappointed.” They also said they never had any reason to suspect their employee would do anything like this.

“Raul is a good kid who has been affiliated with the Circle F Ranch since 2009 as a camper or staff counselor,” said Brett Schwartz, Mora-Yanez’s attorney said in a statement. “As a father myself, I understand the parents’ anxiety. However, like the allegations, it is based solely on presumptions, not facts. In a court of law, the latter is what matters.”  

Mora-Yanez has no prior criminal history.

Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling

In order to understand the State’s Statute, it is first important to define the terms. The term structure refers to any type of building with a roof over it, either temporary or permanent.

The term conveyance refers to any motor vehicle, ship, railroad vehicle, vessel, car, aircraft, sleeping car, or trailer.

The term dwelling is defined as a “building of any kind, whether such building is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, together with the enclosed space of ground and outbuildings immediately surrounding it.”

Under Florida Statute section 810.02, an individual can receive a burglary charge in the following two scenarios:

  1. The defendant is accused of entering a dwelling, structure, or conveyance owned by or in possession of another person. At the time of entering the dwelling, the accused person had the intent to commit an offense in the dwelling, structure, or conveyance; or
  2. The defendant is accused of lawfully entering a dwelling, structure, or conveyance (with permission or consent) and remains inside with the intent to commit an offense therein, or remained inside after the permission was withdrawn, or if the accused person had the intent to commit a forcible felony inside the dwelling.

Understanding what a Forcible Felony is in Florida is important for various reasons. First, it’s one of the elements that a Prosecutor may need to prove for a burglary of an occupied dwelling charge. It can also be important for those facing a violent career criminal enhancement and depending on the circumstances could play a part if the accused is claiming self-defense.

Florida Statute Section 776.08 defines a Forcible felony as:

Penalties for Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling

After getting arrested for burglary of an occupied dwelling, the penalties can vary depending on the severity of the offense.

If the accused person did not make an assault or battery during the commission or attempted commission of the offense, and if they were not armed with a weapon or explosive, they could be charged with a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

The charges can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the offense meets any of the following characteristics:

  • During the commission or attempted commission of burglary of a dwelling, the accused person made an assault or battery upon another person;
  • The accused person was armed with a dangerous weapon or explosive upon entering the dwelling; and
  • The accused person uses a motor vehicle as an instrument to assist in committing the offense, thereby causing damages to or within the dwelling in excess of $1,000.

The penalty for a first-degree felony in Florida is up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Defenses to Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling

Although a person charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling may feel as if they have no options, there are still defenses that can be used in a burglary case. We advise first speaking with an experienced Florida defense attorney to figure out which defense works best with your case.

The following is an example of defenses for burglary of an occupied dwelling charge:

  • Mistaken identity
  • Lack of proof of the accused person’s identity
  • The accused person lacked criminal intent upon entering the dwelling
  • The dwelling was considered a public space or business which was open to the public
  • The accused person entered the dwelling with consent, permission, or an invitation

Speak with a defense attorney in your area to figure out what defenses work in your criminal case.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida 

Burglary charges can have harsh penalties in Florida, with the possibility of altering the course of a person’s future. If you or someone you love has been accused of a burglary charge, we advise speaking with a defense attorney near you. Depending on your situation, there may be credible defenses to use against a burglary of an occupied dwelling charge.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing Florida clients for various charges. Our attorneys will work directly with you to build a strong defense for your case. Contact us today for more information at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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