Burglary vs Breaking and Entering (An Essential Primer!)

Burglary and breaking and entering are two separate legal concepts. While there are some similarities between the two crimes, there are important differences that can impact the potential consequences of a conviction.

The main difference between burglary and breaking and entering is that burglary is the crime of breaking into a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime, whereas breaking and entering is the crime of entering a building, structure, or vehicle without permission or authority.

Generally, burglary is a more serious crime than breaking and entering. Burglary is typically a felony while breaking and entering is typically a misdemeanor. The exact punishment for either crime varies depending on the jurisdiction, but they both can result in fines and/or jail time.

Burglary vs Breaking and Entering

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to seek the help of a qualified attorney.

What is burglary?

Burglary is a crime that involves breaking and entering into a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. It typically involves entering an unoccupied building or structure, such as a house, office, or store, without permission and with the intention of stealing something or committing some other crime, such as vandalism or assault.

The specific elements of the crime of burglary can vary by jurisdiction, but it generally requires proof of the following:

  • An unlawful entry into a building or structure
  • The intent to commit a crime inside the building or structure
  • The absence of permission or authority to enter the building or structure

Burglary is considered a serious crime and is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the specific laws and circumstances of the case. It is typically classified as a property crime, but it can also be classified as a violent crime if it involves the use of force or the threat of force against a person.

 

What is breaking and entering?

Breaking and entering, also known as “trespass by night,” is a crime that involves unlawfully entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. It is similar to burglary in that it involves the unlawful entry into a building or structure, but it does not necessarily require the intent to commit a crime inside.

The specific elements of the crime of breaking and entering can vary by jurisdiction, but it generally requires proof of the following:

  • An unlawful entry into a building or structure
  • The absence of permission or authority to enter the building or structure

Breaking and entering is typically considered a lesser crime than burglary, and is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the specific laws and circumstances of the case. It is typically classified as a property crime, but it can also be classified as a violent crime if it involves the use of force or the threat of force against a person.

 

Key Differences Between Burglary and Breaking and Entering

Intent: The required state of mind for each crime

One key difference between the crimes of burglary and breaking and entering is the required state of mind, or intent, of the person committing the crime. Burglary requires proof of the intent to commit a crime inside the building or structure, while breaking and entering does not necessarily require this element.

In a case of burglary, the prosecution must show that the person accused of the crime entered the building or structure with the specific intent to commit a crime inside, such as theft, vandalism, or assault. This intent must be present at the time of the entry and can be inferred from the circumstances of the case.

In a case of breaking and entering, the prosecution must show that the person accused of the crime entered the building or structure without permission or authority, but it is not necessary to prove that the person had the intent to commit a crime inside. In some jurisdictions, it may be sufficient to prove that the person entered the building or structure with the intent to do any act that would be deemed a crime if committed by an owner or occupant of the property.

Understanding the required state of mind for each crime is important in determining the potential defenses and penalties in a case.

 

Property: The type of property targeted or entered

Another key difference between the crimes of burglary and breaking and entering is the type of property that is targeted or entered. Burglary typically involves breaking and entering into a building or structure that is used for residential, commercial, or public purposes, such as a house, office, or store. Breaking and entering, on the other hand, can involve the unlawful entry into any type of property, including buildings, vehicles, or other structures.

The type of property targeted or entered can affect the potential defenses available to the person charged with the crime, as well as the severity of the crime and the potential penalties. For example, burglaries of residential properties may be considered more serious than burglaries of commercial properties, and may carry stricter penalties. Similarly, breaking and entering into a vehicle may be treated differently than breaking and entering into a building or structure.

It is important to understand the specific laws and definitions in your jurisdiction and how they apply to the type of property targeted or entered in a case of burglary or breaking and entering.

 

Force: The use of force or threat of force

A fourth key difference between the crimes of burglary and breaking and entering is the use of force or threat of force. Burglary and breaking and entering can both involve the use of force or threat of force, but the specific laws and definitions of these crimes can vary by jurisdiction.

In some jurisdictions, the use of force or threat of force during the commission of a burglary or breaking and entering may elevate the crime to a more serious offense, such as armed burglary or home invasion. In these cases, the prosecution may need to prove that the person accused of the crime used or threatened to use a weapon or other means of force to enter the building or structure or to commit a crime inside.

It is important to understand the specific laws and definitions in your jurisdiction and how they apply to the use of force or threat of force in a case of burglary or breaking and entering.

 

Penalties: The potential consequences of each crime

The potential penalties for the crimes of burglary and breaking and entering can vary by jurisdiction, but both crimes are typically considered serious offenses and can carry significant consequences.

Burglary is generally considered a more serious crime than breaking and entering, and is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the specific laws and circumstances of the case. The potential penalties for burglary may be enhanced if the crime involves the use of force or threat of force, or if it is classified as a violent crime.

Breaking and entering is typically punishable by imprisonment and fines, but the potential penalties may be less severe than those for burglary. In some jurisdictions, breaking and entering may be treated as a misdemeanor offense, while in others it may be treated as a felony.

It is important to understand the specific laws and penalties in your jurisdiction and how they apply to a case of burglary or breaking and entering. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential consequences of these crimes.

 

Burglary laws and penalties

Burglary is a serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the specific laws and circumstances of the case. The potential penalties for burglary may be enhanced if the crime involves the use of force or threat of force, or if it is classified as a violent crime.

The specific laws and definitions of burglary can vary by jurisdiction, but generally, a person can be charged with burglary if they:

  • Enter a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside
  • Remain inside a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime
  • Attempt to enter a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside

It is important to understand the specific laws and definitions of burglary in your jurisdiction and how they apply to your case. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential consequences of this crime.

 

Breaking and entering laws and penalties

Breaking and entering is a serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the specific laws and circumstances of the case. In some jurisdictions, breaking and entering may be treated as a misdemeanor offense, while in others it may be treated as a felony.

The specific laws and definitions of breaking and entering can vary by jurisdiction, but generally, a person can be charged with breaking and entering if they:

  • Unlawfully enter a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside
  • Unlawfully remain inside a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime
  • Attempt to unlawfully enter a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime inside

It is important to understand the specific laws and definitions of breaking and entering in your jurisdiction and how they apply to your case. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential consequences of this crime.

 

Common defenses to burglary charges

Severa defenses may be available to a person accused of burglary. Some common defenses to burglary charges may include:

  • Lack of intent: The prosecution must prove that the person accused of the crime had the specific intent to commit a crime inside the building or structure at the time of the entry. If the person did not have this intent, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Mistake of fact: If the person accused of the crime reasonably believed that they had permission or authority to enter the building or structure, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Alibi: If the person accused of the crime can provide evidence that they were not present at the time and place of the crime, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Duress: If the person accused of the crime was under the threat of imminent harm or death and committed the crime as a result, they may be able to defend against the charges on the grounds of duress.
  • Involuntary intoxication: If the person accused of the crime was involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the crime, they may be able to defend against the charges.

It is important to note that the defenses available in a case of burglary may vary by jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential defenses available to you and help you defend against any charges.

 

Common defenses to breaking and entering charges

Several defenses may be available to a person accused of breaking and entering.  Some common defenses to breaking and entering charges may include:

  • Lack of intent: As with burglary, the prosecution must prove that the person accused of the crime entered the building or structure with the specific intent to do an act that would be deemed a crime if committed by an owner or occupant of the property. If the person did not have this intent, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Mistake of fact: If the person accused of the crime reasonably believed that they had permission or authority to enter the building or structure, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Alibi: If the person accused of the crime can provide evidence that they were not present at the time and place of the crime, they may be able to defend against the charges.
  • Duress: If the person accused of the crime was under the threat of imminent harm or death and committed the crime as a result, they may be able to defend against the charges on the grounds of duress.
  • Involuntary intoxication: If the person accused of the crime was involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the crime, they may be able to defend against the charges.

It is important to note that the defenses available in a case of breaking and entering may vary by jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential defenses available to you and help you defend against any charges.

 

How a criminal defense attorney can help with burglary and breaking and entering cases

If you are facing charges of burglary or breaking and entering, it is important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand the specific laws and defenses that apply to your case and provide you with representation in court.

Here are some ways that a criminal defense attorney can help with your case:

  • Investigating the case: A criminal defense attorney can thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your case and gather evidence to support your defense.
  • Advising you on legal options: An attorney can help you understand the legal options available to you and provide guidance on the best course of action.
  • Negotiating with prosecutors: If appropriate, an attorney can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to try to reach a plea bargain or other resolution to the case.
  • Representing you in court: An attorney can provide representation in court and advocate for your rights and interests.

If you are facing charges of burglary or breaking and entering, it is important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can provide you with valuable guidance and representation throughout the legal process.

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