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What Exactly Constitutes Breaking and Entering?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What Exactly Constitutes Breaking and Entering?

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Breaking and Entering in Texas

While browsing crime reports in the local newspaper or online, it’s common to see an entry that describes a person accused of a “B&E“. These initials stand for breaking and entering and it is a relatively common criminal offense. This type of crime involves entering a building or habitation that belongs to someone else, usually with the intent to commit a crime on the premises.

A person can be charged with and convicted of breaking and entering even if they did not commit an additional crime while on the premises that they entered illegally. In many cases, the simple fact that they entered a property without permission is enough for a conviction and punishment to occur.

Legal Definition

Under the laws in most states, breaking and entering is defined as an illegal entry onto property. Although this is usually done in order to commit a crime, such as burglary, this is not necessary to file charges and obtain a conviction. As its name implies, breaking and entering often involves using force to gain entry into private property. This could include:

  • Smashing a window to climb inside
  • Picking a lock to open a door
  • Using bolt cutters to cut through a wire fence

However, actual force or physical damage does not have to occur for these charges to be filed. In some cases, breaking and entering charges can be filed if a person uses deceit or fraud to gain entry into private property. For example, a person who poses as a security guard or police officer in order to access private property may be charged with breaking and entering.

In Texas, breaking and entering is known as criminal trespass. Just as with a B&E, physical force or property damage does not have to occur in order for criminal trespass charges to be filed. Under Texas law, a person who willingly enters a property which belongs to someone else without the consent of the owner even though they know that entry is forbidden may be charged with criminal trespass. Charges can also be filed if someone is told to leave a private property but refuses to do so.

Related Crimes

It’s common for someone to commit an act of criminal trespass in order to commit an additional crime. It’s true that some people may illegally enter private property simply for the sake of trespassing but, in many instances, this act occurs in order to commit another crime, such as theft.

In Texas, a person who commits criminal trespassing in order to commit one of the following crimes may be charged with burglary:

For example, if David kicks in his neighbor’s door, runs in and steals some jewelry, he may be charged with burglary in addition to theft and criminal trespassing. In fact, David can still be charged with burglary even if he does not actually steal any property. This is because, in order for burglary charges to be filed, it only has to be shown that David had an intent to commit a further offense after entering his neighbor’s property.

Legal Penalties

The sentences for burglary and criminal trespassing depend upon the type of property that was illegally entered.

For example, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor offense. If a person hops a fence to enter a neighbor’s cow pasture, he may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. However, trespassing in a private home or government facility can lead to Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by a fine of up to $4000 and up to a year in jail.

Burglary is a much more serious offense. Burglary of a private home is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Committing a burglary of a vehicle is only a Class A misdemeanor but carries a mandatory six-month jail term. Additional vehicle burglaries can be upgraded to felony offense status.

Legal Defenses

For many cases involving burglary or criminal trespassing charges, a defense attorney may choose to focus on the issue of intent. This is a critical issue because intent is what separates a burglary charge from a criminal trespassing charge.

For example, if a person is caught while entering his neighbor’s house, a lawyer might try to introduce evidence which shows that no criminal intent was present. He might argue that the unauthorized entry was just a minor incident and no further criminal plans were involved. Also, the lawyer might argue that someone made a simple mistake and simply opened their neighbor’s door rather than their own door after a long, tiring day.

If successful, this strategy might lead to felony burglary charges being dropped to much less serious misdemeanor criminal trespass charges.

If you have been arrested for breaking and entering, it’s vital that you hire legal defense as soon as possible. Greg Tsioros has the skill and experience to properly defend your rights. Contact his office today at (832) 752-5972.

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