The act of burglary is defined as unlawful entry into a structure. It doesn’t have to be a home or business to qualify as a structure. There must be the intent to commit a crime behind the act of entering the structure. During a burglary, there is often no person on the premises.
Burglary doesn’t require physical breaking and entering to be considered burglary. The person might only enter through an open doorway to be considered against the law. The offender might not enter the building for theft or larceny, and it would still be considered burglary. There are varying degrees of burglary.
Components of a Burglary
Each element or components must be present for a person to be convicted of a burglary. First, there must be unauthorized entry into the building or structure. Second, there must be the intent to commit a crime while inside the dwelling.
Building or Structure
The structure in question must have the ability to house people or animals to be considered a building. If it can’t house people, it must be able to shelter property like a warehouse to be considered a structure.
Abandoned buildings might not qualify for status as a building or structure. While other charges might be leveraged against the person, it most likely won’t be a burglary charge.
Intent Behind the Entering
There must be some intent behind the entering aside from gaining entrance. Usually there’s a crime of theft that coincides with breaking into a building. The person that entered must have the intent on committing a crime while inside. If the person entered the building but didn’t intend on committing a crime until they were inside, that wouldn’t be a burglary. The prosecution must prove there was an intention on committing a crime before entering.
Degrees of Burglary
In New York, there are three degrees of burglary from first to third degree. Third-degree burglary is when the person enters the structure. It can be elevated to second-degree if there was specific intent before entering and the person has a deadly weapon like a firearm or explosives. When the building is a dwelling and there is an element from the second-degree burglary like having a deadly weapon or being armed with explosives, the burglary is bumped to third-degree. This is the case with a burglary involving a safe and explosives.
Defenses to the Charges
When a prosecutor charges a person with burglary, there are a few defenses that can be used by a lawyer for the defendant. One of those is the lack of intent to trespass. Another is the lack of intent to commit a crime after entering the building. In the state of New York, someone in possession of tools meant for burglary can be prosecuted for that too. Weapons appearing to be firearms might be enough to bring about first-degree burglary charges unless the lawyer for the defense can prove that the firearm wasn’t loaded. If caught with explosives, the charge would be first-degree burglary, which is a Class B felony.
Third-degree burglary is considered the lesser of the charges and carries a sentence of 3 to 7 years or a fine of $5,000. First and second degree charges are considered violent felonies. They bring 10 to 30 years in prison. The possession of burglary tools is considered a misdemeanor, which can bring up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000.
When charged with burglary, a defendant will need to have a good defense, which requires a lawyer who is well-versed in the elements of burglary. It could easily go from a third-degree to a second-degree offense if the right defense isn’t used. It’s vital that an experienced lawyer is handling the case, and he or she can understand the nuances of the law in regard to burglary especially if there were explosives involved.