Being charged with any crime can be terrifying. This is especially true of crimes like breaking and entering, which have complex definitions and can therefore be difficult to defend against in court. If you have been charged with breaking and entering, you undoubtedly have some questions about what this charge means, whether it rightfully applies to your situation, and how you and your lawyer can work to get the charges against you dropped or dismissed. Keep reading to discover the basics that you need to know about breaking and entering as someone who has been charged with this crime.
What is breaking and entering?
Breaking and entering is usually classified as a misdemeanor charge. People often confuse breaking and entering with burglary, but there is a distinct difference between the two crimes. Breaking and entering refers to an incident in which you unlawfully enter a building. You do not need to necessarily break a window or door in order to gain entry. For example, if you lie to a security officer, disable a security system, or hide your true identity in order to gain access to a building, this could also be considered breaking and entering.
Burglary, on the other hand, is specifically entering a building with the intention to commit a crime. For example, if you entered a building hoping to physically harm or steal something, that could be considered burglary. If the police do not have any proof that you intended to commit a crime inside the building into which you broke, they will generally charge you with breaking and entering rather than burglary.
What is the punishment for breaking and entering?
This depends on the jurisdiction in which you were charged. In most cases, if convicted of breaking and entering, you will be required to pay a criminal fine and also to pay criminal restitution to the person whose property you entered. A jail sentence of less than one year may also apply. However, most judges will not assign jail time to a first-time offender.
How can your lawyer defend you against charges of breaking and entering?
There are a couple of ways your lawyer can defend against just charge. One would be to argue that you did indeed have permission to be inside the building. For example, if you were a former tenant of that building and still had several days left on your lease even though you had already turned your key in to the landlord, it could be argued that you still had a legal right to be on the property.
Another defense could be that you were either intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated during the event. For example, if you were drunk and mistook the house you broke into as your own house, your lawyer may be able to get to the charges dropped and you charged with a simple violation, such as public intoxication, rather than the misdemeanor charge of breaking and entering.
Finally, your lawyer may be able to demonstrate that the property was not locked or otherwise secured when you gain entry. If this was the case, you may be able to have the charges dropped to trespassing, which is again a simple violation, rather than breaking and entering.
If you have been charged with breaking and entering, make sure you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even though this is a misdemeanor charge, it can come with some pretty heavy fees and possibly even jail time. A good criminal lawyer can formulate a strong defense and ensure you do not unfairly pay for the acts you've committed.