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Breaking & Entering and Burglary

There are two main types of charges that can result from the crime of breaking into another person's house: General breaking and entering (B&E) charges, and burglary charges. Burglary is a type of breaking and entering charge, but it involves illegal entry that is 1) into a place where a person lives (referred to as a dwelling) and 2) committed with the intent to commit a theft (larceny) or any felony.

General Breaking and Entering Charges

Wrongfully breaking or entering a building is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Breaking or entering a building with the intent to terrorize or injure one of the building's occupants, or to commit a theft (also known as larceny) or any felony, is a Class H felony.

For these general breaking and entering crimes, the building in question can be any dwelling, uninhabited house, building under construction, or any structure designed to secure property within it. Under this definition, a person could be charged with B&E for breaking into a tool shed.

Breaking and entering charges are different from simple trespass charges because B&E involves entering a house, dwelling or structure of some kind. Trespass typically involves illegal presence on another's land.

Burglary Charges

Burglary charges are broken into first and second degree burglary, and involve breaking and entering into another person's dwelling with the intent to commit theft/larceny or any felony. If burglary occurs in a building that is physically inhabited at the time, the offense is considered burglary in the first degree and a Class D felony. If the building is not actually occupied at the time of the burglary, then the offense is burglary in the second degree and a Class G felony. In addition, North Carolina's habitual offender statutes make a breaking and entering charge a Class E felony if that individual has a prior conviction for a B&E offense.

When it comes to these types of property crimes, it can be a separate crime to break in, and a separate crime to break out. N.C.G.S. 14-53 makes it a Class D felony to break out of a building in which someone lives at night after committing a larceny/theft or felony inside. This means that a person can face a number of related charges for a completed burglary.

Burglary and Self-Defense Issues

Burglary by definition involves the trespass, usually with force, into another person's home. Law in the United States considers a person's right to their home one of the most important property rights in existence and as such provides it with great deference. In North Carolina, as in many states, the crime of burglary implicates a number of self-defense issues not present in other property crimes.

If the intruder was in the process of illegally and forcefully entering a person's home, or had already entered, and one of the home's lawful occupants used defensive force that was likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to the intruder, the law presumes that the occupant using defensive force had a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm to themselves or another. In other words, the law presumptively allows you to use the defense of self-defense if you use deadly force against someone breaking into your home.

However, this presumption is rebuttable and does not apply in every situation. If the person against whom the defensive force is used is a legal occupant, or law enforcement officer or bail bondsman in performance of their official duties who identifies themselves, the self-defense assertion from above cannot be used. In addition, if the intruder has ceased all of their attempts to forcefully enter the home and had exited the abode, self-defense cannot be used as a defense. Finally, if the person using the defensive force is currently engaged in criminal activity of their own involving the use or threat of physical violence or force, he or she may not say they were acting in self-defense against the intruder.

If you have been charged with breaking and entering or burglary, or inappropriate use of force during a home invasion, it is extremely important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a criminal defense and civil litigation firm in Charlotte and Mooresville, North Carolina. Our dedicated defense attorneys fight for the rights of our clients on a variety of criminal charges, including driving while impaired (DUI/DWI), drug charges, and property crimes. Please contact us today for an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.