The Basics of a Burglary Case

Burglary is generally defined as the intrusion or the trespassing into someone else's property. The act of burglary is generally a statutory offense and is sometimes referred to as breaking and entering and may or may not include robbery or vandalism. The sentence for burglary may vary on a number of factors, such as state laws and procedures. In some jurisdictions, burglary is defined as entering someone else's residence or commercial establishment, cargo container, or any motor vehicle such as an automobile, truck, or marine vessel with the intent to commit a crime. The definition and application of the law for this crime varies extensively from state to state as well as the stipulations and conditions for which charges are filed against the burglar.

Typically, the severity and punishment for burglary is influenced by certain common factors, they can include:

  • The type of property (residential or commercial property, cargo container, or type of vehicle or vessel)
  • Whether there are people in the property at the time
  • Possession of a weapon while committing the burglary
  • If the burglar is under the influence or in possession of illegal drugs
  • Intent to commit a crime and the severity of that crime

All these factors can influence the charges and consequently the severity of the punishment applied to the defendant for the offense. The punishment can vary drastically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and basically will ultimately depend on the degree or class of the charge. In some jurisdictions, burglary may carry a misdemeanor or a felony charge depending on the above-mentioned factors. However, in some jurisdictions, such as in Pennsylvania, burglary is always charged as a felony regardless of the factors or particulars of the case. In this case, the degree or class may vary but the charge will always be a felony.
Another aspect of the crime that can influence the charges in a burglary case is any extra element of the crime. This refers to the burglary actually being a secondary crime or byproduct of the intention to commit another crime, typically a more serious crime. These crimes can include:

  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Identity theft
  • Sexual assault
  • Destruction of property
  • Violation of civil rights

The Difference Between Burglary, Theft, and Robbery

We have already established that burglary is the uninvited and illegal entry into a person's property, cargo container, or any vehicle or vessel, but burglary, robbery, and theft are three different offenses that carry different charges and there by the corresponding penalties vary as well. The charges depend on the jurisdiction where the incidents took place but generally, burglary is viewed as a lesser offense than robbery or theft.

Robbery is the taking or the attempt to take any property of worth from another person, be this property in the care of, custody of, or control of that other person. Robbery is different from theft in that it involves the use of force, the threat of force, the use of violence, or the threat of violence to intimidate the victim or put the victim in fear for his/her safety.

Theft, on the other hand, concerns the taking of a person's property without the permission of the property owner or possessor of that property but does not involve threat, intimidation, or violence to the individual in possession of the property. A charge of theft is usually referred to as larceny and can be separated into two completely different charges with different penalties. The charge that is applied in any particular case depends on the value of the merchandise stolen or the amount of money stolen.

  • Petit larceny is the theft of merchandise under a certain amount of value or the theft of a sum of money under a certain amount.
  • Grand larceny is the theft of merchandise over a certain amount of value or the theft of a sum of money over a certain amount.

The sum or value that sets the dividing line between petit larceny and grand larceny is determined by the corresponding jurisdiction where the incident took place and varies from one area to another. In many jurisdictions, petit larceny is charged and penalized as a misdemeanor and grand larceny is charged and penalized as a felony. However, that depends on the jurisdiction and some areas consider theft a felony distinguished only by the degree or class of the felony.

Penalties for Burglary

The penalty for burglary depends on the charge and varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some places, burglary is charged according to the intent under which the person committed the burglary, so the act of burglary can fetch a misdemeanor or a felony charge on the perpetrator. In other places, burglary is considered a felony regardless of the intent of the perpetrator.

  • A misdemeanor is a lesser crime and may be punishable with a fine, a rehabilitative program, a probationary period, and/or jail time. The jail time normally assigned for a misdemeanor is a year or less and it is usually served in a county or local jail. Misdemeanors are typically tried in low local courts like local justice courts or the municipal courts of a city or county.
  • A felony can also be referred to as a high crime and is defined as a more serious crime. These crimes are usually punishable with a fine, a rehabilitative program, a probationary period, and/or jail time and may even include death. Usually, jail time for a felony is over one year and is served in a state penitentiary or federal prison. Some jurisdictions require a grand jury indictment to bring felony charges against an individual.

A burglary charge can change a person's life forever. Regardless of the charge or jurisdiction, a burglary charge is serious and will make it hard for anyone accused of burglary to find a job, obtain a residence, and/or even get credit. A charge of this magnitude can haunt an individual for the rest of h/her life.

The content in this article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal assitance with a criminal charge such as burglary, please consult with a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case.
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