Burglary

Burglary, also called breaking and entering and sometimes housebreaking, is an unlawful entry into a building or other location for the purposes of committing an offence. Usually that offence is theft, but most jurisdictions include others within the ambit of burglary. To engage in the act of burglary is to burgle, a term back-formed from the word burglar, or to burglarize.

Sir Edward Coke, in chapter 14 of the third part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England, describes the felony of Burglary and explains the various elements of the offence. He distinguished this from housebreaking because the night aggravated the offence since the night time was when man was at rest. He also described the night as the time when the countenance of a man could not be discerned.

In Canada, breaking and entering is prohibited by section 348 of the Criminal Code and is a hybrid offence. Breaking and entering is defined as trespassing with intent to commit an indictable offence. The crime is commonly referred to in Canada as break and enter, which in turn is often shortened to B and E.

In New Zealand, burglary is a statute offence under section 231 of the Crimes Act 1961. Originally this was a codification of the common law offence, though from October 2004 the break element was removed from the definition and entry into the building (or ship), or a part of it, now only needed to be unauthorised. The definition of a building is very broad to cover all forms of dwelling, including an enclosed yard. Unauthorised entry onto agricultural land with intent to commit an imprisonable offence (section 231A) was added in March 2019 as a burglary type offence.

Under Scots law, the crime of burglary does not exist. Instead theft by housebreaking covers theft where the security of the building is overcome. It does not include any other aspect of burglary found in England and Wales. It is a crime usually prosecuted under solemn procedure in a superior court. Another common law crime still used is Hamesuken, which covers forced entry into a building where a serious assault on the occupant takes place. Common law crimes in Scotland are gradually being replaced by statutes.

In some states, a burglary committed during the hours of daylight is technically not burglary, but housebreaking. In many jurisdictions in the U.S., burglary is punished more severely than housebreaking. In California, for example, burglary was punished as burglary in the first degree, while housebreaking was punished as burglary in the second degree. California now distinguishes between entry into a residence and into a commercial building, with the burglary of a residence bearing heavier punishment.

In Maryland, under title 6, subtitle 2 of the criminal law code, the crime of burglary is divided into four degrees. The first three degrees are felonies, while fourth-degree burglary is a misdemeanor. Breaking and entering into a dwelling with intent to commit theft or a crime of violence is first-degree burglary. Breaking and entering into a "storehouse" (a structure other than a dwelling, also including watercraft, aircraft, railroad cars, and vessels) with intent to commit theft, arson, or a crime of violence is second-degree burglary. Third-degree burglary is defined as breaking and entering into a dwelling with intent to commit a crime.

 

 


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