Breaking and entering cases are generally considered to be a criminal act for which you can be arrested. But if you do damage to someone’s property in the process of breaking and entering, can you can also be sued in civil court?
Civil Vs. Criminal
Criminal charges are either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the intent. If someone just breaks into a home, it’s usually a misdemeanor.
Add larceny (theft) or another crime, such as the intent to terrorize someone, breaking into a house of worship, or breaking into a motor vehicle, and the charges become a felony. In either case, these criminal charges can trigger an arrest.
If an arrested individual causes a significant amount of damages, an affected person can choose to file a civil lawsuit to recover money for damages committed during the criminal activity.
An individual who is the recipient of a breaking and entering attempt will frequently suffer damages as a result of the crime, such as:
- Damage to a home, apartment or other dwellings
- Damage to a vehicle, such as broken glass, broken doors, etc.
- Property damage inside of the home or business, such as furniture, fixtures, plumbing, structural fixtures (such as damage to walls) or other private property
Much like a personal injury case, the plaintiff can also sue for compensatory damages for the costs of repair and/or replacement, as well as legal costs, medical costs, loss of wages, and other associated expenses. Punitive damages are also a possibility, as well as things like pain and suffering.
Statute Of Limitations
Someone who has suffered damages from an individual breaking and entering has three years from the date of the break-in to file a lawsuit for monetary compensation. North Carolina General Statutes section 1-52 details the conditions, including 5: For criminal conversation, or for any other injury to the person or rights of another, not arising on contract and not hereafter enumerated.
A civil suit for these damages is separate from a criminal case, tried in a different court. Even if an individual is incarcerated for breaking and entering, he or she can still be sued in civil court and served with a summons. The rules are the same for timeliness and jurisdiction whether or not the person is in prison, and it does not stop the civil process.
However, a person who intends to sue someone who committed breaking and entering should consult with an attorney before proceeding, especially if the damages are significant.
Defend Yourself Against Breaking & Entering
Being charged with breaking and entering doesn’t always follow with a conviction. With the right criminal defense, you could see your charges reduced, or even dropped.
Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, NC. Before working as a defense attorney, he was a Wake County Assistant District Attorney. He understands the criminal justice system and can represent you for a wide range of criminal charges.