Many people use the terms “burglary” and “robbery” for the same crime. However, burglary differs from robbery and covers several types of offenses. Certain elements must be present for it to count as a burglary charge.
Elements of a burglary case
The first element that must be present is the unlawful breaking into a structure or the intent to break into a structure. Under old common law, burglary required the crime to happen at night and an actual break-in, but laws have broadened. The offender doesn’t have to break all the way in to count as burglary; they might walk through an unlocked door uninvited.
The element of a building is required to count as burglary, which under the old law was a residence. Now, that definition includes many types of structures or dwellings, but it may vary by state.
The prosecution must prove that the defendant had intent to commit the crime, such as witnesses or the presence of tools. However, if the defendant didn’t finish the crime, it can be difficult to prove the intent, even with evidence.
Defenses to burglary charges
A criminal defense strategy may argue that the defendant lacked intent to commit the crime or had permission to be there. For example, if a suspect gets caught with a hammer outside a store after hours, they could claim it was for self-defense or work. Sometimes, witnesses misidentify a suspect, or the surveillance cameras may make it hard to identify a suspect.
Entrapment is a common defense, which commonly applies to government officials who make threats or use coercion. It means the defendant committed a crime they would not have otherwise committed if not under threat or coercion.
Getting charged with burglary is a serious offense, but it doesn’t mean the defendant is automatically guilty. The defendant may be able to cast doubt on the prosecution’s argument with a solid defense.