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What are the charges for burglary?

Updated March 20, 2017

The laws of burglary vary according to jurisdiction. Commonly, burglary is a criminal offence involving the breaking and entering of a dwelling or building. When breaking and entering, the person must have the intent to commit a crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, burglary is classified into different degrees and, generally, each degree is considered a felony.

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary usually imposes a maximum penalty of life in prison. The law states that one of three conditions must apply to constitute first-degree burglary. The burglar knowingly enters a dwelling or building without consent and: 1) uses a dangerous weapon during the commission of the crime; 2) assaults or threatens injury to another person in the building; and/or 3) the building is occupied at any time during the commission of the crime.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary essentially imposes a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. For a crime to constitute second-degree burglary, two conditions must apply. The burglar knowingly enters a dwelling or building without consent and: 1) the building is a home, pharmacy or financial institution; and/or 2) enters the premises forcibly or uses a tool to gain access to property or money.

Third-Degree Burglary

A crime of burglary in the third degree usually imposes a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The law considers a crime to be third-degree burglary if the burglar knowingly breaks and enters into a building or dwelling while attempting to steal or commit another crime. The crime must be considered a felony.

Fourth-Degree Burglary

Fourth-degree burglary essentially imposes a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. The law states that a crime is considered fourth-degree burglary if the burglary knowingly breaks and enters into a building or dwelling while attempting to steal or commit another crime. The crime must be considered a misdemeanour.

Additional Information

Some jurisdictions add an additional condition when constituting the crime of first-degree burglary. These jurisdictions require the burglary to occur at night.

Some jurisdictions also consider breaking and entry into a vehicle as the crime of burglary.

The class of felonies differs according to jurisdictions. First-degree burglary may be considered a Class A felony in one jurisdiction and a Class B felony in another.

Courts impose punishments according to the type of crime and criminal history. Courts also consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances when determining punishment.

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About the Author

Angela M. Wheeland specializes in topics related to taxation, technology, gaming and criminal law. She has contributed to several websites and serves as the lead content editor for a construction-related website. Wheeland holds an Associate of Arts in accounting and criminal justice. She has owned and operated her own income tax-preparation business since 2006.