Most states define burglary as some variation of entering a structure with the intent of committing theft or other felony once inside. Another term for burglary is known as breaking and entering and you can be charged with breaking and entering even if you did not forcibly enter the structure.
Your intent in the commission of the crime is a very important element in that you not only did you enter a building, you entered with the specific intent to commit a theft or felony once you gained access. In most states burglary is a “wobbler” charge which means it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your particular case as well as whether you have any prior criminal history.
In some states you can even be charged with a crime simply for possessing a tool which is considered a “burglary tool,” such as a slim jim, picklock or crowbar—if the prosecutor can also show you had the intent to commit burglary. Penalties for burglary can be very harsh therefore you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner as soon as you are charged in order to potentially get the charges reduced or even dismissed. It can be somewhat difficult to prove the crime of burglary therefore the prosecutor may be more likely to consider lesser charges or offer an appealing plea bargain.
Burglary can be charged as a first or second degree crime with first degree burglary being a felony. Second degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. First degree burglary could be charged during a residential crime, or a dwelling where people live or sleep. Even if the residence is not currently occupied, such as in the case of a vacation home and you burglarize it while nobody is in the home, it can still be considered inhabited, leading to more serious first degree burglary charges. Second degree burglary charges are more likely to be seen in a commercial burglary where no one routinely lives or sleeps.
Defenses to Burglary
The prosecutor must prove that you had the intent to commit a theft or felony upon your entry or the crime did not actually take place. Another facet of intent revolves around mistake of fact which means if you entered another’s home with the intention of taking back something you believed belonged to you or if you entered another’s home believing you had the owner’s express permission to take the time, then you would not be guilty of burglary. Finally, if you had the owner’s consent or you were actually the owner of the property, then your attorney might be able to prove you had no intent to commit the crime of burglary. If you are innocent of the crime of burglary as charged, then your attorney may argue that your charges were the result of mistaken identity in that you simply looked like someone else or had the same name as someone who was reported to the police.
Don’t wait, hoping the charges will go away if you have been charged with burglary. A conviction could follow you for the rest of your life, making it difficult to obtain employment, get a student loan or obtain a professional license. You want to minimize the damage to your future as much as possible and your criminal defense attorney can help you do that.