National Legal Network of Lawyers

What is Burglary?

What is Burglary?

Burglary… Explained

is a crime that is generally committed without violence. It is the entering of a structure without the owner’s or legal possessor’s consent coupled with intent to commit a felony or a theft therein.


The elements that constitute the crime are as follows:

  1. Trespass
  2. Breaking
  3. Entering a dwelling or structure
  4. Intent to commit a felony (in some jurisdictions) or to commit a theft

A trespass means that the intruder entered the structure without the consent of owner or possessor even if the accused gained entry through misrepresentation.

A breaking is accomplished through the means of entry, which could be through any opening. A person who does enter a structure with the possessor’s consent may still commit a burglary if the person enters a room from which he or she was denied access. Most states have eliminated this element of the crime and only require that the intruder gain access. In fact, if any part of your body unlawfully enters a structure, it is considered an entry. Waving a flashlight into a structure fits this definition as you have crossed the threshold.

A structure includes a dwelling where someone lives, or any other structure as defined by the individual state. For instance, in California, first degree burglary involves entry into a dwelling or residence, while second degree burglary is entry into a commercial building or any other structure. This includes barns, shops, warehouses, cars, boats, or trailers.

You also must have possessed the intent to commit a theft or felony, although in some states the intent to commit any crime is sufficient. You can be charged with burglary even if you did not commit any crime but did possess the intent. Intent can be demonstrated by the clothes you are wearing. Donning dark clothing and wearing eye black is an indication as well as carrying any “tools” that police or criminal law experts will testify as constituting burglary tools.

You must also have had the intent to commit a crime when you entered. Without these tools or makeup, it may be difficult to prove a crime other than trespassing.

Further, committing a crime inside the structure is not necessary. In states where you must have had the intent to commit felony or theft, if you only committed or intended to commit a simple battery or assault, you may not be convicted of burglary.

Also, a burglary may be charged as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. In some states, it depends on whether the burglary was committed in a residence or in a commercial or other structure; although a separate charge can accompany the charge such as theft, assault or homicide.

The penalties for felony burglary usually involve more than one year in prison and up to several years depending on if you entered a residence or other structure, if you committed a violent felony therein, and your criminal history.


1-800-ATTORNEY® - Copyright © Lawyer Holdings, LLC
For licensing information: Contact us