Have you been arrested for committing a burglary in North Carolina? The state will aggressively pursue criminal charges against you, so it is important to speak with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney immediately. Burglary is a very serious felony offense and, if convicted, you could be sentenced to more than 6 years in prison. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will help to minimize the consequences of any charges that may be filed against you. Call the North Carolina burglary attorneys at Caulder & Valentine to schedule a free consultation and learn more. You have the right to defend yourself, and we can help.
What is Burglary?
While many states have developed modern interpretations for the crime of burglary, North Carolina embraces the common law definition of the crime. Burglary (N.C.G.S. 14-51) is defined as breaking into another person's home without permission with the intent to commit a crime. Original definitions for burglary required that the crime be committed at night; North Carolina has eliminated this element. Instead, the crime of burglary can be committed at any time, day or night.
In North Carolina, the crime of burglary has many different components. The state must be able to prove that you are guilty of each of these elements in order to get a conviction:
- Breaking and entering
- Without consent
- Into the dwelling home or sleeping apartment of another
- With the intent to commit a crime.
Breaking and Entering
You do not actually have to physically break-in or destroy anything to be guilty of “breaking and entering.” Instead, breaking and entering simply means crossing the threshold of a home. This can include opening a door that is unlocked or climbing through an open window.
In order to be convicted of burglary in North Carolina, you must be present in another person's home without their consent. Consent only exists when a person knowingly and willingly agrees to something.
Dwelling Home or Sleeping Apartment
Burglary requires that you break into another person's dwelling home or sleeping apartment. North Carolina law defines a dwelling in N.C.G.S 160A-442 as
any building, structure, manufactured home or mobile home, or part thereof, used and occupied for human habitation or intended to be so used.
Homes used for temporary and seasonal vacation uses are not considered to be dwellings under state law.
Sleeping apartments, on the other hand, can include any room in a building that is used primarily for sleeping purposes. The building itself does not necessarily have to be a dwelling.
Intent to Commit a Crime
Simply breaking into another person's home is not enough to warrant criminal charges for burglary. You must also have the intent to commit a felony or theft inside the building. Felonies include any crime that is punishable by time in prison. Theft, which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, includes any act in which you unlawfully take another person's property without permission.
It is important to note that you can still face criminal charges for breaking and entering if you lack the intent to commit a crime once you've unlawfully entered another person's home.
Penalties for Burglary in North Carolina
North Carolina divides the crime of burglary into two distinct classifications: first degree and second degree. The charge will ultimately depend on whether or not the burglarized home is occupied at the time of the crime.
First Degree Burglary
Charges for first-degree burglary will be filed when someone is home at the time of the break-in. As long as any person is in the “actual occupation of any part” of the dwelling or sleeping apartment at the time of the crime, the crime will be a burglary in the first degree. In other words, as long as someone is present in any part of the home (regardless of whether that part of the home is targeted in the crime) when the break-in occurs, the crime is first-degree burglary.
First-degree burglary is a Class D Felony in North Carolina. If convicted, you face between 64-80 months in prison and criminal fines. The length of imprisonment can be extended if aggravating factors (e.g., prior criminal record, victim suffers harm during the crime) are present.
Second Degree Burglary
Burglary will be considered a second-degree offense when the dwelling or sleeping apartment is not occupied at the time of the crime. In other words, if no one is actually present in the home or sleeping apartment when the break-in occurs, the crime will be considered second-degree burglary.
Second-degree burglary is a Class G Felony, punishable by 8-31 months in prison. Again, the length of imprisonment may be extended if you have prior criminal convictions or if someone is harmed during the commission of the crime.
Breaking and Entering
North Carolina has several laws on the books that are related to burglary. If the State is unsuccessful in establishing guilt for burglary, they may decide to pursue charges for a less-serious but related crime: breaking and entering.
Breaking and entering is the crime of unlawfully entering a building with the intent to (a) commit a crime, or (b) terrorize or injure an inhabitant. Breaking and entering apply to all buildings that are not classified as dwellings as well as cars, boats, airplanes, and trailers. You can also be charged with breaking and entering if you break into a home but lack the intent to commit a felony or theft once inside.
Defending Burglary Charges in North Carolina
North Carolina prosecutors must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction. You can make it difficult for the state to build a solid case against you by arguing legal defenses. Defenses that can be useful in a burglary case include:
- You had permission to be in the home
- You entered the home by mistake
- You did not have the intent to commit a crime, and
- You have been falsely accused or misidentified.
If any evidence is gathered in violation of your rights (e.g., illegal search and seizure, unlawful arrest) we will fight to have it suppressed. When the State lacks physical evidence to support its case against you, it will be more likely to reduce or drop the charges.
Experienced North Carolina Burglary Attorneys
Burglary is a serious crime in North Carolina. If you have been arrested and/or are facing criminal charges, it is important to consult with an attorney who is familiar with local laws and procedures. Call the burglary attorneys at Caulder & Valentine today to request a consultation.