Different Degrees of Burglary

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What Is Burglary?

Burglary is unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime therein. The crime can be any crime – murder, robbery, rape, assault or credit card fraud.

Burglary is a felony. A felony is a serious crime that carries a minimum penalty of at least one year in prison. Like most felonies, there a several different types of burglary, categorized based on level of culpability.

The Different Categories of Burglary

Many states have multiple degrees of burglary. All degrees of burglary require the unlawful entry, the lack of consent, and the intent to commit a crime.

Fourth degree burglary: Some jurisdictions use a fourth degree of burglary. Generally, fourth degree burglary is intention to commit a burglary. For example, if you’re discovered outside a building with burglar’s tools, you could be charged with fourth degree burglary. 

Third degree burglary: Third degree is the basic burglary and carries a light sentence, which is approximately 5 years in prison.

On occasion, third degree burglary may instead by charged as unlawful entry, which is the misdemeanor cousin of burglary. Unlawful entry only requires that an individual enter a place without consent.

Second degree burglary: Defendants convicted of second degree burglary face approximately 10 years in prison. Second degree burglary requires that:

Note that exact requirements for second degree burglary will differ between states. Some states will charge second degree if the defendant was armed during the burglary while other states will only charge second degree if a victim was injured.

First degree burglary: First degree carries the harshest punishment of all of the categories of burglary, usually 15 years or longer. First degree burglary requires that the burglary occur in a residential home and that:

Note that requirements for first degree burglary will differ between states. Some states will only charge first degree if the residence was occupied during the burglary while other states may charge first degree burglary if the crime took place at night.

Differences Between Degrees of Burglary

Fourth and third degree burglary are separated by actual commission of the crime. In fourth degree, burglary hasn’t been committed yet, but the defendant is accused of planning to commit burglary. In third degree burglary and higher, the defendant has already entered the building without consent. The main difference between third degree burglary and the other degrees is that there are no aggravating circumstances such as weapons present. First and second degree burglary are separated by the type of building the defendant entered. First degree burglary occurs in a person’s residence while second degree burglary occurs in a commercial property.

Burglary Lawyers

Burglary is a serious defense, regardless of which degree of burglary you have been charged with. It is important that you immediately seek the expertise of an accomplished criminal defense attorney who has experience with defending felony charges. With your criminal defense attorney, you can discuss the nature of your charges and formulate a defense strategy.

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Last Modified: 12-08-2016 03:23 PM PST

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