Why It Matters Where You (Illegally) Enter

Legal Tips & Resources

Under most state laws, an individual who enters a structure or vehicle without permission to do so can be found guilty of burglary. In fact, that is the very definition of burglary – entering some structure with an intent to commit either a theft, an assault, or another felony inside. But not all structures are regarded equally under the law; committing a burglary of a coin-operated machine for example, carries far less severe penalties than burglarizing a house. Defendants accused of burglary will benefit from experienced defense counsel who know how various buildings and structures are defined under the law.

The Various Types of Structures

Most burglary statutes recognize various structures that can be burglarized. These include:

·            Habitations, which are buildings or vehicles adapted so that people can stay overnight in them. For purposes of a habitation, each separately occupied or secured portion of the structure or vehicle, as well as each structure that is adjacent to or connected with the structure or vehicle, is included in this definition. Burglarizing a habitation can be a second degree or first-degree felony.

·            Buildings are enclosed structures intended for use as habitations or places of business or other use. Someone who burglarizes a building is guilty of a state jail felony.

·            Vehicles are devices intended to propel, move, draw, or otherwise transport people. Burglarizing a vehicle is a misdemeanor on a first offense.

·            Coin-operated or coin collection machines are those devices that collect change and in return provide amusement, goods, services, telecommunications, or “other valuable things.” Burglarizing such a device or machine is a misdemeanor.

Why Competent Criminal Defense Counsel Is Important

Imagine a rather extreme example of a burglary, in which John knows that his teenage neighbor Tommy keeps valuable baseball cards and comic books in a clubhouse on his parents’ property. The clubhouse is located over 50 feet from the main house and is not connected with the residence in any way. The clubhouse has never been used for overnight sleeping and in fact is not equipped with anything to allow anyone to stay there overnight (no beds, no heating or air conditioning, etc.). Suppose John breaks into the clubhouse and steals the coins and comic books. He is later apprehended and charged with burglary.

At this point, competent criminal defense counsel can make all the difference. Prosecutors are likely going to try to charge John with burglarizing a habitation for burglarizing a structure adjacent to the main residence. Or the prosecution may attempt to claim that the clubhouse itself is a “habitation” because it could be adapted to overnight use. Part of a criminal defense attorney’s job would be to carefully evaluate the facts of this particular case and argue that the clubhouse is not a “habitation” but only a “building” or something else, which carries a far less severe penalty.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with burglary or another property crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer in Connecticut to evaluate your case and advise you of possible defenses to these serious charges. Contact a criminal defense attorney for a case evaluation.