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What are some defenses to the crime of burglary?

Residents of Upper Marlboro may have seen crime dramas on popular television shows and movies showing someone kicking down a door to enter a building and steal something. The crime of burglary, however, can be subtler than that.

In general, a crime will be considered to be a burglary if three elements are met. First, there must be a "breaking and entering" that is not authorized. Second, the breaking and entering must be into a structure such as a building that is occupied. Third, the accused must have meant to commit some sort crime in the building. These elements may seem rather clear-cut, but in actuality there are a number of defense arguments that can be made when one is facing burglary charges.

One defense to burglary -- or any crime, for that matter -- is actual innocence. Keep in mind that it is the burden of the prosecution to show that the accused committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. When it comes to burglary, if there is some reason -- any reason -- to doubt that the accused committed the crime, the accused cannot be found guilty. The accused may have an alibi, or the forensic evidence may work in the accused's favor.

There are also affirmative defenses to the crime of burglary. The accused can argue that they had the property owner's permission to be on the property, and therefore cannot meet all three elements of the crime of burglary, as there was no unauthorized breaking and entering. Or, the accused can argue that they did not have any intention to do anything illegal inside the building. Entrapment can also be argued as a defense to the crime of burglary, although it can be very hard to prove entrapment took place.

In the end, those accused of burglary should not despair. There are arguments that can be made in their favor, and one of the cornerstones of our nation's criminal justice system is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Those who are accused of burglary or other felonies may want to work with a defense attorney when building their case.

Source: FindLaw, "Burglary Defenses," Accessed April 17, 2017

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