Interviewer: Can you define for me what burglary is, where it occurs and how it occurs?
You Will Be Charged with Burglary if You Enter an Occupied Structure with the Intent to Commit a Crime
Dale: Burglary is defined as entering into a structure that is occupied, or should be occupied, with the intent to commit a crime. It actually doesn’t matter what the crime is.
Interviewer: An obvious crime would be to steal something, but what are some other crimes that may be not so obvious that would fall under burglary?
Entering a Building to Apply Graffiti Will Be Considered a Burglary, Even Though No Items Were Stolen
Dale: One would be if you went in and vandalized a place.
Interviewer: Even if you didn’t take anything that is still considered a burglary?
Dale: Yes. A spurned lover that entered your home to and write on the walls, Rich, I hate you, would be facing a burglary charge if apprehended.
Interviewer: What about a domestic violence case? What if you enter into a property that belongs to your spouse? Is that considered a burglary?
Dale: Well, you may have a right to be on the premises. If a family member or a member of your household is on the property, more than likely you have every right to be in the premises.
But, if you enter into somebody else’s place with the intent to physically hurt them, yes, that could be a burglary.
A Burglary Charge Does Entail a Provable Intent to Commit a Crime
Interviewer: Any other crimes that people wouldn’t think of that would constitute burglary?
Dale: Well, you have to go in with the intent to commit a crime. Usually, the typical pattern is somebody’s going in a structure to steal something. Even if you just take a roll of pennies, now it’s burglary. That is an F2, which is a felony of the second degree.
Interviewer: Because of what you stole or because of the burglary?
Dale: Yes because of the intent and it’s a very serious charge.
A Burglary Charge Is Always a Felony
Interviewer: Any burglary you commit is charged as a felony, or could it be charged as a misdemeanor?
Dale: A burglary is always charged as a felony, which is why it is so serious.
A Felony Burglary Conviction Could Comprise a Jail Sentence of Up to 7 Years
Interviewer: What are the possible ranges of penalties for burglary?
Dale: You could face a jail term of seven years.
Even if You Enter an Unlocked Structure, You Will Face a Burglary Charge
Interviewer: What about the way you gain entry? Does that matter if you use forcible entry, such as breaking down the door, use a crowbar, or if you pick a lock?
Dale: It really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if the door is unlocked. You’ve entered into the premises with the intent to commit a crime.
The Difference between Trespassing and Burglary Is the Intent to Commit a Crime
Interviewer: How does this relate to trespassing because trespassing sounds like it’s also entering a premises unlawfully?
Dale: The primary difference is with trespassing you are entering a structure without the intent to commit a crime.
Lack of Intent: An Attorney Will Try to Prove a Trespass Instead of Burglary as Part of a Defense
Interviewer: Does that become your argument and the way you might try to defend a case? Is that where the prosecutor would allege burglary, but you may try to get it reduced instead to a trespass?
Dale: Yes, that is absolutely what I try to do. Say a maintenance man gains entry into your place and they’re authorized at first to enter your home. They go in and then they see something and they take it.
That’s not really burglary because they didn’t enter into the place with an intent and foresight to commit a crime. The intent was formed after they were in the premises. That would be a straight-out theft.
Interviewer: Let’s say that you were over a friend’s house for dinner and you went and took something out of their bedroom. That would not be a burglary because you were invited to be there?
Dale: Yes, that is a good example. You didn’t enter in without the owner’s permission.