What is Breaking and Entering?

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 What Is Theft? What Are Property Crimes?

In legal terms, theft refers to taking someone else’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of that property. However, the law recognizes many different levels of theft, as well as distinct crimes that carry a wide range of penalties. Additionally, theft can be classified as either a felony crime or a misdemeanor crime, depending on the specifics of each case.

The level of punishment for theft will largely depend on the severity of the specific theft charges. An example of this would be how stealing a low value item from a retail store will result in lesser charges and penalties when compared to stealing someone else’s vehicle. When someone uses weapons or force while perpetrating theft, it will be classified as a more serious crime.

Generally speaking, the term “property crime” refers to any crime involving the theft or destruction of property belonging to another person. Property crimes are most commonly considered to be misdemeanor crimes, frequently resulting in criminal fines as well as a short jail sentence.

Although property crime generally refers to theft of property, the term can also include other crimes, such as:

  • Vandalism;
  • Criminal damage to property;
  • Defacement of statues and other works of art;
  • Trespassing;
  • Burglary; and
  • Breaking and entering, which will be further discussed below.

Additionally, property crimes frequently occur simultaneously with other crimes. An example of this would be how many assault and battery cases also involve property that was damaged during the altercation or fight.

What Is Breaking And Entering?

The crime of breaking and entering is defined as the act of entering property without authorization. Entering is accomplished by implementing some kind of force, such as pushing open a closed door. If there is also intent to commit a crime once inside, such as breaking into a car in order to steal the car, this would be considered burglary.

Breaking and entering is a specific type of property crime which involves the following elements of proof:

  • The unauthorized entry,
  • Into a residence or building, by
  • Using force, deceit, and/or property damage.

It is important to note that actually “breaking” a window or a door is not necessary to be found guilty of breaking and entering. An example of this would be how deceiving a security guard in order to gain unauthorized access to an area could be considered breaking and entering. Another example would be how slightly pushing open a door in order to enter the building may also be considered breaking and entering.

Most jurisdictions define burglary as breaking and entering, plus the intent to commit a felony while illegally on the premises.

What Is The Difference Between Burglary And Breaking And Entering?

Burglary is a specific type of crime that occurs when a person breaks and enters into a house or building, and for the purpose of committing a crime. It is generally committed when someone intends to carry out the crime of theft once they have illegally entered the premises. However, this unlawful entry onto property with the intention of committing any crime, such as assault or arson, may constitute burglary charges.

As a crime, burglary is often referred to by other names, such as breaking and entering or housebreaking. However, it is important to note that there may be slight differences between these terms, largely depending on differing state criminal laws and statutes. Depending on state laws and the details of the specific crime that was committed, burglary can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

In many states, such as New York, burglary is punishable as a felony which can be further separated into categories known as degrees. An example of this would be how these may range from first-degree to third-degree burglary. Generally speaking, first-degree burglary is the most serious type of burglary crime, while second- and third-degree burglary charges are considered to be less serious.

In other states and/or jurisdictions, burglary can be classified as a misdemeanor crime. Factors that are considered when determining how serious a burglary crime is may include:

  • How the person gained entry into the property, such as destroying a door versus sneaking in through an open window;
  • Whether any property was damaged during the crime;
  • Whether there were any people present during the crime;
  • Whether any violence and/or threats of violence were used in order to commit the burglary; and
  • Whether any weapons were involved in the commission of the crime.

While the crime of burglary is most commonly classified as a felony crime, breaking and entering is more commonly classified as a misdemeanor, mirroring criminal trespassing. Penalties for misdemeanors generally include a jail sentence of less than one year, as well as some criminal fines. Additionally, a misdemeanor jail sentence is to be served in a county jail, and not in a federal prison facility.

In some specific cases, breaking and entering can result in felony charges. An example of this would be if there is severe property damage involved in the break-in. Another example would be if another person was seriously injured during the process of breaking and entering. Charges may also differ based on what types of conduct occurred on the premises after the breaking and entering.

What Should I Know About Criminal Trespass?

As previously mentioned, the ways in which breaking and entering may be addressed significantly mirrors the crime of criminal trespass. Criminal trespass refers to unlawful entry onto someone else’s private property, without their permission to do so. The defendant must have been aware that they did not have permission to be on the property, or that any prior permission has been expressly revoked. This fills the intent element of a criminal trespass charge, with the actual entry fulfilling the action element.

Some states have the added element that potential trespassers be given some sort of notice that their presence is not wanted. An example of this would be a posted sign, but more commonly a physical barrier such as a fence will properly serve notice.

Walking onto someone’s land or into someone else’s house or building are obvious forms of trespass. Other examples include getting into someone’s vehicle without permission, and how some states have special statutes forbidding hunting game on private land.

A criminal trespass charge ranges from considerably minor infractions, such as misdemeanors, or disorderly conduct charges to a felony degree based on the circumstances of the case.

Generally speaking, defendants are charged with one of the lesser crimes that carry short jail sentences, and/or:

  • Fines;
  • Probation; and
  • Community service.

It is important to note that judges may also force the convicted to pay reparations for the criminal damages. Felony charges can result in up to several years spent in a federal prison if aggravating factors are present, such as burglary and/or assault.

Are There Any Legal Defenses Available For Breaking And Entering?

An example of one of the most common defenses for breaking and entering would be consent. What this means is that if the owner consents to the person’s presence, it is not considered to be breaking and entering.

Another common example of this would be when a person must forcefully enter their own home after locking themselves out, and a neighbor calls the police. In such cases, this would not be considered breaking and entering because the person owns the property in question.

Other defenses generally include mistaken identity, intoxication, and other such standard criminal defenses. Whether any defenses will be available to you if you are being accused of breaking and entering will largely depend on your state’s laws, as well as the specifics of your case.

Do I Need An Attorney For Breaking And Entering?

If you are being accused of breaking and entering, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can best provide legal advice based on your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, as well as your rights and legal options. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

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