Burglary is one of those crimes that many people believe they understand, but that is often confused with other crimes that are often related to it, like robbery. Burglary is the unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime. In some jurisdictions, the structure must be an occupied structure, which does not mean that a person has to be in the building at the time the burglary is committed, but does exempt unlawful entry into abandoned structures from burglary charges. Usually the intended crime is theft or larceny, but a person who breaks into a home for any criminal reason is committing a burglary.
Breaking and entering is often believed to be part of burglary, and pop culture has spread the idea that if there is no physical breaking, such as a broken window or picked lock, then breaking and entering has not occurred. However, the term breaking and entering does not refer to an actual physical breaking; it simply refers to the unlawful entry into a structure. What elevates a crime from breaking and entering to burglary is the intention to commit a crime once inside the structure.
Differences from Robbery
Many people confuse burglary with robbery. While the most common motivation for burglary is theft and the crime of robbery also involves theft, the two crimes are distinct. Robbery refers to the use of force or fear to obtain a person’s property, and armed robbery refers to committing that crime while armed with a weapon. With burglary, there are often no victims present at the scene; in fact, most burglaries occur in unoccupied buildings or habitations. In addition, the crime of burglary does not require a theft or other crime to occur once the person has entered the property, simply that the wrongdoer had the intent to commit a crime when breaking and entering. However, a person might commit a burglary with the intention of committing a robbery, or enter a habitation that he or she believes to be uninhabited and, encountering people inside, transform a burglary into a robbery.