Burglary is a type of theft. Theft is intentionally removing or taking someone’s property without their permission. Laws regarding burglary and theft vary from state to state and may depend on the type or amount of property stolen.

What Types of Property Can be Stolen?

Criminal laws define two main types of property: moveable and immovable property. Moveable property includes items such as cars or electronics. Immovable property includes real property, such as land and things attached to it.

Other types of property can be stolen including documents of monetary value, such as money or stock certificates. Information can also be stolen, such as an individual’s identifying data. Personal services may be stolen, for example, service at a restaurant where a patron dines and dashes without paying.

What is the Difference Between Burglary and Robbery?

Burglary and robbery are often confusing terms which refer to two different types of crimes. Burglary requires breaking and entering into property. Robbery does not. To be considered a robbery, a threat or weapon must be used. A burglary can occur without a threat or weapon.

Burglary is a theft that occurs when an individual breaks and enters into a building or structure intending to commit a felony after entering without permission. Many times, the intended crime is theft but unlawful entry onto a property with the intent to commit any crime is burglary. This can include assault, arson, and murder. In some cases, “structures” have included tents, cars, and rooms.

Robbery is larceny committed with threat of force, violence or intimidation. Larceny is the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the intent of permanently depriving them of that property. In other words, taking something from someone and never planning to return it. An example would be robbing someone of their money at gunpoint.

How Can I Protect My Residence from Burglary?

Most people consider protecting their residence from burglary but steps can be taken to deter burglars at any structure. These steps can include:

  • Make your home appear as if it is occupied
    • Leaving the shades up and curtains drawn
    • Leaving a light, television or radio running
  • Secure the exterior of your home
    • Lock and doors and windows and do not leave keys in a public place, such as under the front door mat
    • Use exterior lighting, including motion-sensor lights
  • Create the appearance of a secure home
    • Post alarm warning signs or “beware of dog” signs outside
  • Have a secure home
    • Install an alarm system
    • Participate in a neighborhood watch program
  • Secure exterior buildings and garages
    • Add lighting and locks to sheds and don’t leave valuables outside
    • Lock any doors leading from the garage to the home
  • Secure entrances and exits
    • Install a peephole on exterior doors so you can see who is outside
    • Secure or replace sliding glass doors, a common entry point for thieves
  • If you leave for an extended period of time, take steps to keep it from being obvious
    • Put your newspaper on hold
    • Request mail collection by a post office or neighbor
    • Avoiding posting about your absence on social media

What if I Was a Victim of a Burglary?

If you are a victim of a burglary, you should call the police. If there is sufficient evidence, the police will then forward your case to the District Attorney’s office to prosecute the person who committed the burglary.

You may be able to make a claim with your insurance company for any items that were stolen. If your personal information was stolen, such as credit cards or birth certificates, make sure to cancel those cards with the bank and alert the credit bureaus to the possibility of fraud using your personal information.

What Are the Penalties for Burglary if Convicted?

Depending on the circumstances of the burglary, a defendant could face:

  • Imprisonment ranging from one to twenty five years;
  • Probation;
  • Fines;
  • Court ordered counseling; and/or
  • Court ordered rehabilitation program.

When determining the penalty for a burglary a judge may consider:

  • Previous criminal record, most specifically prior burglary convictions;
  • Probation status;
  • The type of structure involved in the burglary;
  • Whether any other people were present in the structure at the time of the burglary;
  • The type of crime that the defendant intended to commit during the burglary; and
  • Whether any weapons were involved, or whether the defendant used force during the crime.

Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Have Been Accused of a Burglary?

If you have been charged with burglary, you will want to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Burglary can be a serious charge with serious consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can inform you of specific laws in your state and determine if there are any defenses to your charge.

The attorney may be able to negotiate and have the charges against you dismissed or reduced, depending on the evidence in your specific case. The attorney will also represent you at any court appearances.