The Elements of a Burglary

Burglary is most often defined as the unlawful entry into virtually any structure (not just into a home or a business) with the intent to commit virtually any crime (not just theft or larceny) within that structure. It is not necessary that the burglar actually break into the structure; in fact, the burglar might simply trespass through an open doorway. Burglary is different from robbery in that robbery involves the use of force or fear to obtain someone else’s property; often a burglary takes place when no victim is present.

Elements of a Burglary

Burglary definitions come from state law and elements of the crime can, therefore, vary from state to state. In general, the definition of burglary follows the Model Penal Code’s definition: The unauthorized breaking and entry into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside.

Since each of the defined elements must be present, it’s necessary to look at them individually:

  • Breaking and entering refers to any sort of entry (even a hand through a window) made without consent from the property’s occupant. Breaking can refer to actual breaking, which involves physical force of any magnitude, including simply pushing open a door that’s been left ajar, or to constructive breaking, which refers to entry gained without physical force, including threats, fraud, or blackmail.
  • Building or occupied structure refers to nearly any building or structure that meets certain minimum requirements, which usually include that it be capable of housing either people or animals or of sheltering property. The structure must also be closed to the public at the time of the burglary. Abandoned buildings represent a different category of structure.
  • Intent refers to the burglar’s intention of committing a crime when entering the building – this intention is separate from the break-in itself.

These are the elements of the crime of burglary, but there are other factors, such as when the intention to commit the crime arose, that can affect the degree or seriousness of the charge.

Burglary is a complex charge that should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you care about is facing a burglary charge, you should seek immediate legal counsel.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Today

When faced with a burglary charge, do not hesitate to retain legal counsel. The right attorney can make all the difference, and John C. Iannelli, Esq. not only has 23 years of experience but also has the skill and criminal defense expertise to fight for your rights and for the best outcome of your case. Call our office at 215-545-2880 to schedule a free consultation.

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