The definition of burglary

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2021 | Theft & Property Crimes

A lot of people in Florida don’t understand the charge of burglary and get it confused with other property crimes like theft and robbery. While burglary may include breaking and entering and theft, not all theft is considered burglary and not all breaking and entering is considered burglary.

Elements of burglary

Property crimes must have three elements in order to be considered burglary under criminal law:

• Unlawful breaking and entering
• An occupied structure
• Intention to commit a crime

Breaking and entering could involve actual property damage to get into a structure, or it could involve walking through an unlocked door after committing fraud. Either way, the structure must be occupied in order for a person to be charged for burglary. Breaking into an abandoned building is not burglary. Lastly, the person who is charged for burglary must have entered the structure with the intent to commit a crime, which may or may not be the crime of theft.

What’s not burglary

Some criminal activities are similar to burglary but don’t fit the definition. For example, if a person unlawfully enters an occupied structure but has no intent to commit a crime, this may be trespassing, but it is not burglary. If a person unlawfully enters a structure and then uses force and fear to obtain property, this would be the more serious crime of robbery. Burglary is typically a nonviolent crime that does not involve a victim being present at the scene.

Timing and intent is important

The timing of activities during a burglary is important when prosecutors are determining the degree of a burglary charge. If an individual had a plan to break into a business and steal specific items, the burglary charge would be elevated based on the person’s intent. On the other hand, if a burglar breaks into a building with no intention to steal but decides at the last minute to take something, this person would face a lesser charge.


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