In North Carolina, burglary is a felony offense punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 160 months. The legal definition of burglary is the unlawful entry into any structure intending to commit a felony. Burglary can often be confused with breaking and entering, which is using force to break into a building, and robbery, which is taking property by force or fear from another person. Three elements of a burglary must be present in most states to get a conviction.
Type of structure
For many years, the recognized structure in a burglary was a residence. Now, even a commercial building qualifies as a structure for a burglary charge.
Unlawful breaking and entering
Breaking and entering is the unauthorized entry into any building or structure. There are two types of breaking and entering. The first is when someone forces their way into a building. The offender does not have to cause damage to property or break down a door to be guilty of breaking and entering. They could simply push into an open door or enter through an open window. In a legal defense case, the defendant would have to prove they had the property owner’s permission to enter the building to avoid a charge.
The second type is constructive breaking and entering and involves fraud or blackmail to gain entry into premises. An example would be working with another person with access to the property to let the perpetrator in unlawfully.
Intent to commit a felony
Breaking and entering becomes burglary when it can be proven the suspect gained entry to the building to commit a crime. Examples of criminal activity include stealing property or assaulting another person on the property. One common element of a criminal defense against a burglary charge is to prove that the person had some claim or right to an object that may have been taken from the property.
If any element of a burglary charge cannot be proven, the case could be reduced to a lesser crime with fewer penalties. No matter the charge, if this is a first offense, it may be possible to work out a plea deal to reduce charges.