*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

The terms you’ve come to associate with the law and legality sometimes have meanings in popular culture that differ from what they mean in the courtroom. “Burglary” is one of these terms. You need to familiarize yourself with the specificities of the term should you ever have to hear it in a courtroom setting.

Once you better understand what the term describes and how it’s used in court, you’ll be able to use it with more confidence. You’ll also be able to better understand any of the records you access when you perform criminal record checks at PeopleFinders.

What Is a Burglary?

A burglary is defined as breaking and entering into a space with the intention to remove items or people from that space without consent. Burglaries do not require the suspect to force their way into the space. Instead, if someone enters into a space without permission or consent at all, whether it be by breaking a window or by walking through an open door, then they can be accused of burglary.

Note that burglary here does not mean the same thing as “theft.” In fact, a person can be accused of theft but not burglary, and vice versa. Burglary can be affiliated with other crimes, including sexual assault or arson.

Burglary used to solely apply to maliciously-motivated events that took place at night. Nowadays, a person can be accused of burglary regardless of the time of day an unapproved entry into a space took place.

What Elements Make a Burglary a Burglary?

Different states have different factors that contribute to accusations of burglary. In general, however, burglary in each of the 50 states is defined based on the following factors:

  • Did a person non-consensually enter into a space?
  • Did that person use force to enter the space? (Note that, again, force is not necessary to burgle, but it does contribute to the severity of a burglary and other potential charges.)
  • Did the person who entered intend to commit a crime inside that space?

Should a court respond with a “yes” to all of the previous questions, or two of the three, the defendant will open themselves up to accusations of burglary, among any other charges that may be associated with it.

What is Breaking and Entering?

The terms “burglary” and “breaking and entering” are often used interchangeably. They are not the same thing, though. “Breaking and entering” describes unauthorized entry into a space, full stop. Trespassing that involves force could be considered breaking and entering.

It’s easiest to differentiate between these two terms by assessing the phrase “breaking and entering.” “Breaking” requires force. A person who has broken into a space may have kicked down a door, picked the lock or pushed open an already-ajar door. Either way, physical action taken against an obstacle is considered “breaking.”

Note, too, that not all breaking is physical. There is also constructive breaking. This kind of breaking involves the use of blackmail, fraud, or manipulation to enter a space into which the defendant is not permitted.

Entering, comparatively, has a straightforward definition. To enter a place, a person has to cross a threshold, be it through a window or through a door. This does mean, however, that even putting a hand over a visible threshold can count as entry into an unauthorized space.

How Is A Burglary Different Than Breaking and Entering?

A person who has been accused of breaking and entering cannot necessarily be accused of burglary in the same breath. However, a person accused of burglary can readily be accused of breaking and entering. In short, breaking and entering has a broader definition than burglary.

What Role Does Intention Play In Burglary?

Most importantly, burglary requires intent. Someone accused of burglary must enter into an unauthorized space with the intention to either cause harm or commit a crime.

Here, again, the difference between breaking and entering and burglary has to be teased out. If a person breaks into an empty mall to smoke marijuana, they’re not burgling anything. However, if that person breaks into an empty mall to steal a jacket, they are committing burglary.

What Does a Burglary Mean in a Criminal Records Report?

When you’re performing a criminal records check on PeopleFinders, you’ll find a thorough exploration of a person’s history, including records reporting whether or not they’ve been accused of burgling a location. Remember: because burglary and breaking and entering describe different things, you’ll need to read your records with care to understand the information with which you’re presented.