What do you picture when you think of a burglar? Maybe the stereotypical image of a man in stripes, wearing a black hat and eye mask to protect his identity.
He sneaks around in the night in order to break and enter without being caught. In most images, burglars carry a big sack, so they can run out of a house with jewels, electronics, or other valuable items.
Burglary is one of the crimes most feared by Americans.
- Fifty-eight percent of adults fear that someone will break into their home while they’re sleeping, in fact.
- Even though the number of burglaries happening across the country is decreasing, one burglary still occurs every 26 seconds in the United States.
- More than half of them happen in broad daylight.
What may be even more surprising about burglary crimes — to burglars themselves, even — is that these criminal charges don’t always involve theft!
That’s right. Burglars in North Carolina can face burglary charges without ever even taking a single item.
What Is Burglary According to NC Law?
The crime of burglary was first defined in 1641. At the time, the definition of burglary was breaking and entering into another person’s home in order to commit a crime.
That definition has carried right down the centuries to modern-day North Carolina law. In fact, the definition in this state has been broadened.
Nowadays, simply being in a dwelling or vehicle unlawfully is considered burglary, so long as the offender had the intent of committing a crime — any crime.
That crime does not have to be theft. Assault, sexual misconduct, or other felony crimes will still “count” as intent needed to prove a burglary crime.
If you were to remain in a hotel unlawfully with the intention of sexually assaulting a person within the building, you may find yourself facing sexual assault and burglary charges, for example.
A Burglary Crime is Always a Felony
The average loss from a burglary is close to $3,000. It only takes $1,000 for larceny to become felony larceny in North Carolina. But even if you attempted to steal a $500 TV after breaking and entering into a home, you may still be charged with burglary.
North Carolina law says, “For the purposes of defining the crime of burglary, larceny shall be deemed a felony without regard to the value of the property in question.”
Burglary Penalties in North Carolina
North Carolina law defines two types of burglary: first-degree and second-degree burglary. There is one important factor that separates the two charges: was someone in the dwelling at the time of the crime?
(To be clear, “dwellings” are not just single-family homes. Any temporary or permanent residence, including mobile homes or tents, may be considered a dwelling. Breaking into another person’s tent with the intention of committing a felony is still considered burglary.)
The two degrees of burglary have a significant difference in the felony status and potential punishment.
A first-degree burglary occurs when someone is present in the dwelling at the time of the burglary. This crime is a Class D felony in North Carolina. Penalties include 38 to 160 months in prison – that’s up to 13 years and four months.
A second-degree burglary occurs when no one is present, and it will result in a Class G felony charge. Penalties include 8 to 31 months in prison – that’s over two and a half years behind bars.
Similar Crimes in North Carolina
North Carolina has a very specific definition of what makes a “dwelling” a “dwelling.” If someone doesn’t live in the building where a burglar is breaking and entering, they may not be charged with first- or second-degree burglary.
However, that doesn’t mean the burglar will run free. In fact, most breaking and entering crimes are felonies. North Carolina law lays out specific charges and penalties for the following crimes:
- Breaking or entering a pharmacy (Class E felony)
- Breaking or entering a building that is a place of religious worship (Class G felony)
- Breaking or entering buildings generally (Class H felony)
- Preparation to commit burglary or other housebreakings (Class I felony)
- Breaking out of dwelling house burglary (Class D felony)
- Breaking or entering into or breaking out of railroad cars, motor vehicles, trailers, aircraft, boats, or other watercraft (Class I felony)
- Breaking into or forcibly opening coin-or currency-operated machines (Class I felony)
- Breaking into paper currency machines (Class I felony)
Essentially, if you are somewhere that you’re not supposed to be, and a prosecutor has reason to believe that you had the intention of committing a crime in that space, you could find yourself charged with burglary or a similar crime.
Reach out to an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer for more information on defending these charges.