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The three elements required to prove burglary

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In Rhode Island, burglary is a serious criminal offense that requires proof that a defendant committed specific elements. The elements needed to convict a defendant may vary slightly from one state to another but generally include breaking and entering, intent to commit a crime and entering the property of another.

These legal principles provide a broad overview of burglary, and the following takes a more detailed look at each element.

Breaking and entering

To prove this element of a burglary charge, the defendant must have entered or broken into a property or building without permission. The individual may have picked a lock, used force to gain entry, or entered an area designated as off-limits.

A break-in can involve something as simple as pushing open a door already ajar. A person using blackmail to gain access also constitutes breaking and entering, even though it involves no force.

Intent to commit a crime

For this element, the defendant must have intended to commit a crime before or when they entered the property. In criminal defense, the burglary charge can apply even if the individual did not complete the crime, but the intent to commit a crime must have been present when the person entered the property.

Each state has additional laws regarding the seriousness or degree of burglary, and the crime must exist separately from the break-in. For example, a person can commit fraud to gain entry to a building, and although fraud is a crime, no burglary has occurred because the person used fraud only to gain access.

Entering another’s property

The property that the defendant burglarized or entered must belong to someone else. The other person or entity’s property could include a business, home or another property type.

To satisfy this element, the burglar must enter the structure. However, sufficient support for this element can entail one hand through a window; the suspect does not have actually to walk into the building.

Understanding the elements of a burglary is essential for individuals who face charges or seek to defend against them.