What Are the Criminal Charges for Breaking & Entering?

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A variety of criminal charges can come from breaking and entering a residence or business without prior approval. The charges vary by state and depend on the intent of the individual, if an element of force is involved in entering the building and if the person commits any other crimes while on the premises.

Each state has their own sentencing guidelines for misdemeanour charges and felony charges, but typically these can range from probation to several years in jail.


A person who enters a building by using force but has the intent of helping someone usually won't face criminal charges. If the reason for breaking and entering is to cause harm to property or a person, the criminal charge of breaking and entering applies, but the charge of burglary also applies. Even if no vandalism occurs, no property is damaged and no person injured, an individual can face breaking and entering charges. If the person enters a building without the use of force, the charge is criminal trespassing.

Time of Day

Some jurisdictions make a distinction between daytime breaking and entering charges and nighttime charges. The time of day does not change the criminal charges but may affect the sentencing recommendations of the presiding judge. According to the Law offices of Jason Chan, breaking and entering committed one hour after sunset and in combination with a felony charge can result in up to 20 years in state prison.

To Commit a Misdemeanor

If the breaking and entering occurs in the process of committing a misdemeanour crime, such as vandalism, additional charges apply and an increase to a felony charge is possible. Felony charges carry large jail or prison sentences with additional fines likely.

To Commit a Felony

If the person commits a breaking and entering offence during the committal of a felony charge, such as assault or murder, the felony charge is pursued more vehemently than the misdemeanour breaking and entering charge. Although as court cases for felony charges are brought before judges, additional misdemeanour charges may be added to intensify the sentencing from the judge.