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The elements required to comprise the crime of burglary vary in different jurisdictions. Generally, however, burglary is defined as unlawful breaking and entering into a structure with the intent of committing a crime. It is commonly believed that burglaries involve theft, but burglaries can be for intended assault or any other crime, regardless of whether the intended crime is even committed.
There is also not generally a great deal of force required to unlawfully break into a structure (or vehicle). Opening an unlocked door or window may be sufficient to constitute "breaking" as long as entry is not authorized. "Entering" can occur even if only a part of a body enters the structure temporarily, such as when someone reaches through a window to unlock a door to gain unauthorized access (trespassing).
In jurisdictions in which breaking and entering is a required element of burglary, the breaking and entering must be proximate (one after the other), whereas in others they must be causal (someone drills a hole and several days later uses it to gain entry). If there is no intent to commit a crime, breaking and entering alone is probably at least illegal trespass in most jurisdictions, which is a misdemeanor crime. Trespassing can even take place if someone misrepresents his or her identity to gain the access.
Most burglars work as a team. While one perpetrator breaks into the structure or vehicle, often an accomplice will drive a car nearby to look out for police or witnesses. They will sometimes "case" a property beforehand to improve the likelihood that no one will be present when they attempt their crime (or that as few people including the intended victim of an assault or other crime are present).
"Botched" burglaries, in which an unforeseen party is present, usually a homeowner, can be very dangerous as there is a high potential for violence. Police generally advise a party caught in such a situation to remain quiet and complicit. As soon as it is safe, he or she should dial 911 and relay to the operator/dispatcher as many details as possible.
There is much that can be done to protect oneself and one's property from becoming a victim or target of a burglary, including:
- Have an alarm system installed in your home and cars.
- Install motion-detecting lighting for dark areas around your house.
- Keep bushes trimmed so that burglars cannot hide behind them.
- Keep curtains drawn at night and when you are away so that potential burglars cannot look inside.
- Make sure that all of your entry doors have strong deadbolts and keep them locked at all times, even during daytime when you are at home. Many burglaries take place in broad daylight, when burglars know that many people leave their doors unlocked.
- Store your valuables in a fireproof safe.
- Join a neighborhood watch group.
- Don't leave valuables inside of your car and keep your windows completely closed (windows left even slightly cracked are easier to break into).
- Get a steering lock or car-disabling device.
- If you get a car stereo, make sure it has a removable faceplate or other anti-theft device.
Being the target of a burglary is a traumatic experience. If you or a loved one is the victim of a burglary, get proper medical attention if needed, and provide an account of the incident to your corresponding local law authorities.
There may, however, be civil as well as criminal recourses you can pursue. A qualified personal injury attorney can advise you of your rights and evaluate if you may be able to recover financial compensation for any injuries and loss of property you may have suffered.
Contact us today to find an experienced burglary lawyer near you.