Burglary Law & Legal Definition


Burglary is the criminal offense of breaking and entering any dwelling or building illegally with the intent to commit a felony or crime. Under common law in order to constitute the offense the illegal entry should be into the dwelling of another at night. Burglary laws vary by state. Depending on the gravity of the offense, it can be classified into different degrees. Degrees of burglary are defined by each state's laws.

Example of a State Statute on Burglary

In New York when a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a crime and is armed with explosives or deadly weapon or causes physical injury to someone not a party to the crime or threatens use of dangerous instrument it amounts to burglary of the first degree and it is a class B felony. If this happens in a dwelling it is burglary of the second degree and it is a class C felony. A person is guilty of burglary in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein. This amounts to class D felony.

The relevant law as it appears in the statute

NY CLS Penal § 140.30 Burglary in the first degree

A person is guilty of burglary in the first degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling with intent to commit a crime therein, and when, in effecting entry or while in the dwelling or in immediate flight there from, he or another participant in the crime:

1. Is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon; or

2. Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or

3. Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or

4. Displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm; except that in any prosecution under this subdivision, it is an affirmative defense that such pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm was not a loaded weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, could be discharged. Nothing contained in this subdivision shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude a conviction of, burglary in the second degree, burglary in the third degree or any other crime.

Burglary in the first degree is a class B felony.

NY CLS Penal § 140.25 Burglary in the second degree

A person is guilty of burglary in the second degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein, and when:

1. In effecting entry or while in the building or in immediate flight therefrom, he or another participant in the crime:

(a) Is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon; or

(b) Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or

(c) Uses or threatens the immediate use of a dangerous instrument; or

(d) Displays what appears to be a pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm; or

2. The building is a dwelling.

Burglary in the second degree is a class C felony.

NY CLS Penal § 140.20 Burglary in the third degree

A person is guilty of burglary in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein.

Burglary in the third degree is a class D felony.