Also known as "burglary," breaking and entering is defined as entering a building with the intent to commit a crime. Remaining in a building would count as "entering," so if you were to hide in a store until it closed, that would count as breaking and entering. There are typically two types of breaking-and-entering charges: residential burglary (if it's a home) and commercial burglary (if it's a business). However, the law also recognizes that breaking into a car or a storage container also counts as breaking and entering.
While they're usually described as a unit, "breaking and entering" are technically two acts that make up one crime. "Breaking" is the actual action you take to make your way into the building. It can include everything from setting explosives to tear down a wall to opening an unlocked door. Severe force is not necessary for the law to consider it 'breaking in.'
"Entering" is the actual action of entering the building. There's no limit on how much time you spend in the building; even if you put your foot inside the building for a second, you've entered.
What If the Suspect Didn't Actually Steal Anything?
You can still be charged with burglary in Michigan if you didn't steal anything. The key action in any breaking and entering charge is whether the suspect intended to commit a crime. It doesn't matter if that crime occurred or if the suspect claims they don't have any of the accuser's property. One of the only defenses from a burglary charge is to assert that the defendant did not intend to commit a crime.
The best way to ensure that you can protect yourself from burglary charges is to avoid speaking with police until you call a lawyer. Law enforcement rarely catches people in the act of breaking and entering; it's more likely to be arrested as a suspect after the crime has taken place. However, the evidence used against defendants is often weak. For instance, fingerprints are rarely conclusive, and there may be very little evidence tying you to the burglarized location at all.
In fact, the best evidence for a breaking and entering charge often comes from the defendant's own mouth, which is why it's vital that you exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent until your lawyer arrives.
The Penalties for Breaking & Entering in Michigan
Breaking and entering can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what the prosecutors believe your intent to have been. Anyone who enters a dwelling, business, or any other structure without permission from the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor right off the bat. After the moment of entry, additional charges will depend on your supposed intent.
If you break and enter into a structure in order to commit a felony or larceny, you'll be charged with a felony and facing up to 10 years in prison.
If you enter without breaking with intent to commit a felony or larceny, you'll be charged with a felony and facing up to 5 years in prison and $2,500 in fines.
If you break and enter into an "outside showcase or counter" with intent to commit larceny, you'll be charged with a misdemeanor and could be jailed for 6 months and fined $750.
Speak with me, Daniel D. Hajji, a Farmington Hills burglary defense attorney with nearly two decades of criminal defense experience. I'm available 24 hours a day, I offer flexible payment plans, and I'll fight day and night to make sure you're acquitted, your case is dismissed, or your charges are reduced.