The crime of Burglary is the unlawful entry into an enclosed structure with the intent to commit a a felony. If the structure being entered is a place of residence, this is prosecuted as a residential burglary. If the building is a commercial structure, this is called a commercial burglary. Unlike the crime of robbery, which requires the use of force or threat of force upon another to steal the property, burglary is a covert crime where the victim is either asleep or not present.
The Entry – Legal Significance
The crime of burglary occurs upon the entry into the structure. Breaking in by force is no longer a required element of the crime. The essential feature of burglary is the intent of the person to enter the structure. If the person intends to steal or commit any felony as he enters, and does so, the crime is defined as a burglary. It is not necessary that the felony or theft be completed; only that it was intended to be completed when entry was made. (Although the prosecutor may have a difficult time proving the defendants intent if the crime was not completed since the necessary intent to commit the crime can be argued by a seasoned defense lawyer to relate back to the original entry)
Identity of a burglary suspect is often proved using fingerprints which are usually found at the point of entry or around the area where the actual theft took place.
Defense To Burglary
A common defense to burglary is that the suspect had a legitimate reason for being in the area. (Remember, it is impossible to know how long a fingerprint has been on the surface when it is lifted for forensic examination.) The suspect may have been a handyman who had done some work on the house four months prior. Another defense to burglary is lack of intent upon entry. Example - ”I did not break into the house to steal. I was only looking for a place to get out from the cold.”
Penalty – First Degree Burglary
Each state sets its own specific range of penalties for crimes committed in the state. Notwithstanding, assuming there are no mitigating factors, (such minimal planning and premeditation, low value of item stolen, no criminal record, young age of defendant, etc.) the judge can impose the harshest sentence on the defendant, which is Burglary In The First Degree, if it involves aggravating factor, which is usually itemized by statute, such as the use of a weapon, injury to another, value of stolen property, premeditation, motive and/or a substantial criminal record. The average prison time for such a crime, under aggravated circumstances ranges between five to fifteen years in state prison.