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Is Entering An Unlocked Door Considered Breaking And Entering?

Most people think of “breaking and entering” as a broken window, a pried-open door, or the kicked-in door characteristic in home invasions. It’s literally using force to break into a home or place of business and called “breaking and entering” for a reason. Generally, you don’t have permission to be on the premises, and you’re there for the sole purpose of committing a crime. Since most people and businesses lock their doors, getting in takes some type of criminal action to overcome the locks.

But what if the door was unlocked?

The Definition Of Breaking & Entering

At one time, the term simply meant that—physically breaking into a home or business using force, even if no crime was committed.Is Entering An Unlocked Door Considered Breaking And Entering?

Today’s charges apply to any unlawful entry into a dwelling anytime, day or night, without permission, and with the intent to commit a crime. Like most states, North Carolina has expanded the definition of “breaking and entering” to include walking into a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime.

This means that even entering through an unlocked door or opening and crawling through a window that’s partially opened is a crime if the individual didn’t have permission to be there and was trespassing. Breaking and entering is also a separate charge from burglary, and you can be charged for it even if you committed no other crime.

North Carolina law includes “felonious breaking and entering,” in which an individual not only enters a building without permission, but has the intent to steal, or injure and/or intimidate an individual inside the dwelling.

  • Penalties are harsher for individuals who break and enter into a house of worship, i.e., a church, synagogue, mosque, or other worship center.

Charges Associated With Breaking & Entering

Different charges are applied depending on the intent.

For an individual who breaks into a building for shelter, but has no intent to commit theft, they will likely be charged with second-degree trespassing. If the individual has been warned to stay off the property, or enters a building that’s fenced in or otherwise closed, they will likely be charged with first-degree trespass, a more serious offense.

  • Trespassing on property belonging to a utility company if the trespass placed anyone at risk of being injured, or if they intended to disrupt operations (such as a power or water company)
  • Trespassing at the home of a former or estranged spouse or domestic partner is also punished more severely if the other party asked them to leave, especially if they are in a shelter for domestic violence

If the intent for theft can be proven, the individual can be charged with burglary even if he or she didn’t actually commit the crime.

If the dwelling is occupied at the time of the break and enter, the individual is charged with first-degree burglary. If the dwelling isn’t occupied at the time of the break and enter, the charge is second-degree burglary. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-51.)

North Carolina also considers it a crime to break into a building, and open a safe, vault or “other secure place” using explosives, or break into a vehicle, including a car, boat, trailer, etc.

Defend Yourself Against Breaking & Entering

Being charged with breaking and entering doesn’t always follow with a conviction.

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.

Call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your criminal defense case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at dewey@deweypbrinkleylaw.com, or use our online contact form.