What Happens If You Get Caught for Burglary?

Updated April 17, 2017

Burglary, by legal definition, is the unlawful entry of a building with the intention to commit theft or to perform a felonious (criminal) deed. Burglary is more commonly referred to as "breaking and entering" or a "break in." Burglary of a building should not be confused with theft and car break-ins; they are referred to as larceny. It is the intent that characterises a crime as a burglary. For example, if a person enters a building through an unlocked door without causing any property damage, it is still considered burglary because the intent is to commit a theft. In this case, the burglary is referred to as a "non-forcible entry." When a burglar uses force to break into a building, causing property damage; for example, a broken door, it referred to as forcible entry.

Arresting the Suspect

When a suspect is arrested for burglary, the police hold the individual in custody. The individual's freedom to leave is restricted until the police find no cause to detain the individual any longer. The precise order of processing while in police custody varies from state to state, but the basic procedures are the same across the country. On arrest, the individual is taken to the nearest local precinct and informed of the reason for the detention.

Miranda Rights

When a suspect is arrested, the arresting office has to read the individual his Miranda Rights. The statement, "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." The arresting officer continues to read the entire Miranda Rights warning. If, for whatever reason, an officer fails to do so, the case against the suspect will not hold up in a court of law. The aim of the Miranda Rights is to ensure that all criminals who are arrested have the fundamental right to an attorney and not to incriminate themselves by talking to police.


If the evidence against a suspect is deemed incriminating, a charge of burglary is brought against the suspect who is then booked. Once the suspect is booked, the procedure that follows includes the individual's picture being taken by a police photographer and fingerprinting the suspect. The suspect has to give up all personal belongings, which are inventoried and bagged for safe keeping. After providing pertinent information like address and contact numbers to the police, the suspect is then allowed one phone call before being put in a jail cell.


The suspect is required to remain in jail until a date for the trial is fixed or until the suspect can post bail. If a suspect manages to post bail, he or she is released from custody, but has to appear before the court on the arraignment date. The act of posting bail is to assure the court that the suspect will not flee the country or disappear. On the date of the arraignment (court session), the suspect is formally charged with the crime of burglary and is required to plead guilty or not guilty. A not-guilty plea generally results in a jury or non-jury trial at a time fixed by the court, to determine the suspect's innocence or guilt.

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About the Author

Devon Willis started writing in 2002. He has worked for publication houses like Edward Elgar Publishing and Nelson Thornes in Gloucestershire, England. He has a B.A. in journalism and a M.A. in mass communication from the University of Gloucestershire and London Metropolitan University, respectively.