Burglary is the unlawful breaking and entry into any structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. A structure can include an apartment, barn house trailer, houseboat, office, railroad car (but not automobile), stable, or vessel (i.e. ship). The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines burglary as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. Although a majority of burglaries, as organized by subcategory, consist of burglaries involving forcible entries, burglaries in general do not require the use of physical force. There are also three sub classifications for burglary, which are forcible entry, where force is used to gain entry into a structure (i.e. breaking a window), unlawful entry, where although no force is used, that person has no legal right to be on the premises, and attempted forcible entry, where no forced is used, as well. However, the trespassing element of burglary must occur without the consent of the victim. This includes instances in which the thief gains entry by deceiving their way onto the victim’s property such as misrepresenting one’s identity, which is considered constructive breaking. In addition, the intent to commit a felony must be present, regardless of whether or not they changed their mind amidst the crime or decided to leave once they had gotten onto the premises. An example of this would be a person climbing into someone’s home through a window with the intent to steal something. Regardless of whether or not that person has actually stolen or left with anything, they have committed burglary. The crime of burglary does not always, but usually, involves theft.
A common defense for the crime is that the person is actually innocent, which involves convincing the court that the defendant did not commit the acts in question. This can be done by presenting an alibi or questioning evidence. Another common defense is that they may not have committed all the elements of a burglary. For example, defendants may make the argument that they had the consent of the occupier of the structure to enter, and the owner had never revoked that consent, and therefore there was no presence of breaking and entry. Another defense is that the person did not possess the intent to commit the crime once inside the structure. Entrapment, which is when the person is induced into committing a criminal offense, is another defense used, in which the offender makes the argument that someone entrapped them. The defendant would make the argument that under other circumstances they would not have committed the crime unless convinced.
A burglary is considered to be very serious and is typically charged as a felony offense. Some possible penalties for burglary include jail or prison, fines, or being put on probation. However, there are several factors that affect the burglary sentence, such as mitigating factors or aggravating factors. Mitigating factors are factors that influence judges to reduce the severity (i.e. lack of a criminal record, responsibility, etc.). Aggravating factors are the factors that make it more serious (i.e. vulnerable victim, defendant’s role in the case, etc.).