Breaking and entering is a type of property crime committed when a person enters a property of another without consent. Under most state criminal laws, to "break and enter" means to use force to gain unauthorized access to land or a property structure. The charges are usually listed as "breaking and entering" and are very similar to criminal trespassing charges.

Breaking and entering sometimes does not have to involve an actual destruction of property. For instance, criminal charges may result if the defendant simply pushed open a door in order to enter the property. Or, if they bribed a security guard or deceived them in order to gain access to a building, it might result in breaking and entering charges.

How Is Breaking and Entering Proved?

Breaking and entering is proved by establishing that the following elements were present:

  • Unauthorized entry
  • Into the property or building of another
  • Using force, deceit, or property damage
  • without the consent or permission of the property owner

In most states, there needs to be no "breaking" element or force required for someone to be charged as breaking and entering. Any entry into a building can constitute breaking and entering as long as the other requirements are met

How Is Breaking and Entering Related to Burglary Charges?

Burglary is very closely related to breaking and entering. Most jurisdictions define burglary as "breaking and entering" while having the intent to commit a felony within the building. Thus, burglary can involve other felonies such as kidnapping, rape, or assault, and not just theft of property.

Burglary therefore almost always involves some form of breaking and entering. On the other hand, breaking and entering doesn’t always result in burglary (for instance, if the person broke and entered into a building simply to take pictures, which is not always a felony charge).

What Are Some Common Methods of Breaking and Entering?

Break and enter methods can include:

  • Opening a window to climb through
  • Opening a door
  • Breaking locks, seals, or chains in order to enter
  • Using deception or fraud in order to gain access to the property
  • Burrowing or digging a tunnel
  • Destroying walls, ceilings, or other aspects of the structure

What Are the Penalties For a Breaking and Entering Charge?

A breaking and entering charge is a serious crime and is found to be a felony in most states. However, there are some states that allow the charge to be a misdemeanor under some situations. The following are possible penalties for a breaking and entering conviction:

  • jail or prison time
  • Fines of up to $1,000 to $100,000
  • Restitution
  • Probation

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Breaking and Entering Charges?

Breaking and entering can sometimes present some complex legal challenges. For instance many breaking and entering cases may also involve burglary charges. This can complicate the criminal process and will usually require the assistance of a lawyer near you. You may wish to hire a criminal defense attorney if you need legal representation. Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal advice that can help you during the trial.