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What constitutes burglary?

The crime of burglary has been around for a long time. So long, in fact, that the definition of the crime has evolved. We’ll take a closer look this week at what constitutes burglary in 2018 with the understanding that the information is general in nature only and not intended to be taken as legal advice.

Generally speaking, a crime has to meet several elements in order to be charged as burglary. The first is that the defendant “broke in” without authorization. Breaking and entering actually covers many different types of actions. It could be picking a locked door or breaking a window, or even simply opening a door or window that has been left unlocked. Even threatening or tricking an occupant to gain entry, with no physical force, would still fall under the definition of breaking and entering.

Next, the location has to be some sort of a structure. This broadly encompasses everything from homes, garages, and barns to retail shops and office buildings. However, it typically would not include an open area like an office park, zoo or fairground, parking garage, or other fenced-off outdoor property. Entering such a space without authorization could be charged as trespassing or another crime, but would not likely constitute burglary.

The final element of burglary is intent. The defendant must have broken into a structure intending to engage in criminal activity (e.g., theft) within. There can be varying degrees of intent. Planning to break in and steal something ahead of time, for example, is likely going to be charged as a more serious crime than one that only occurred to a defendant who was already inside the structure.

Burglary often conjures images of a prowler in the nighttime climbing through a window, sneaking into a house, and making off with valuables. However, the actual elements of a burglary charge are specific and may not align with what most readers would consider burglary. Quincy residents who find themselves facing this charge often find that a criminal defense professional can help challenge these elements in court. By doing so, a reduced charge or acquittal may be obtained.

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