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The 3 elements of burglary in New Jersey

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

There are many myths and misconceptions about what it takes to be convicted of burglary. Some people think that as long as they don’t break into a home or business, they can’t be charged with burglary. Others believe that any theft from a building, no matter how it’s carried out, meets the definition. The truth is, there is more than one element that courts consider when determining whether someone is guilty of burglary.

Unauthorized entry

This means that the defendant must have entered a building or structure without permission from the owner or someone with authority to give it. The structure can be a home, business or even a car. In this case, it doesn’t matter whether the defendant intended to commit a crime when they entered; simply being present without authorization is enough.

Intent to commit a crime

This means that the defendant must have had the criminal intent to commit theft or another felony once they were inside the structure. In other words, they can’t get charged with burglary simply for trespassing; there must be evidence that they intended to commit a criminal act while on the property. While defending their client, a criminal defense attorney may have to deal with certain types of evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, video footage or the defendant’s own statements.

Breaking in

The defendant must also have actually broken into the structure, either by forced entry or through some other means. There are two categories of this element: actual breaking and constructive breaking. Actual breaking is just what it sounds like: the defendant used physical force to enter the building, usually by kicking in a door or window. Constructive breaking occurs when the defendant didn’t use physical force to enter, but did so through some other means, such as picking a lock or using a fake key.

If you’ve been charged with burglary, it’s important to understand all of the elements that the prosecution must prove in order to convict you. It’s possible to get the charges reduced or even dismissed if one of the elements is missing.