When Is Breaking and Entering a Felony?

The term “breaking and entering” usually conjures up an image similar to those we see in the movies. A person dressed entirely in black sneaks into an open window and steals the family silver.

Breaking and entering in the state of Mississippi, however, can encompass much more. The state of Mississippi defines burglary as breaking and entering into a structure (not a home), with the intent of committing a crime once inside.

The elements of the crime of burglary must both be shown in order for you to be convicted. This means the prosecutor must not only prove you broke into the structure and entered, but that you had every intention of committing a crime once inside.

What Is Illegal Entry?

Illegal entry into a building means you were inside a structure without express permission from the owner. It could also mean you were lawfully inside a shop building, but broke into the locked office inside the shop. It is important to note, however, that you don’t actually need to use physical force to “break” into a building or home under Mississippi Code Section 97-17-23. Simply turning the doorknob and walking in to an unlocked home—without express permission—is considered “breaking and entering.”

State of Mind—the Second Element of Burglary

The second element of burglary is about your state of mind when you entered the building. This means you must have first decided to commit a crime, then unlawfully entered a building for that express purpose. If both elements (illegally entering and intent to commit a crime) are not present, then the prosecutor may only be able to convict you of a lesser crime, such as trespass, or attempted burglary.

When Breaking and Entering Turns Into Home Invasion

A burglary can turn into a home invasion when it occurs in a dwelling, or a place used for lodging—a home, an apartment, a condo, etc. Home invasion requires the same criminal elements as above, however because it occurs in a person’s private residence, therefore could potentially cause injury, harm or trauma to the occupants, the penalties are much more severe.

Breaking and Entering Crimes Mostly Felonies

Most breaking and entering crimes in the state of Mississippi are considered felonies, however the punishment and penalties can vary, depending on the exact crime. The crime of home invasion is a felony, punishable by at least three and up to 25 years in prison. If there were people present in the residence during the breaking and entering home invasion, enhanced penalties may apply.

If you are convicted of breaking and entering in a shop, store, tent, warehouse or other building in which goods, merchandise or equipment are kept, with the intent to take something that does not belong to you, you could face up to seven years in prison. If you are convicted of breaking and entering a church, temple, synagogue or other established place of worship, those penalties could increase to up to 14 years in prison. Burglary by breaking an inner door of a dwelling can result in up to ten years in prison if you are convicted.

It is also illegal to possess burglar’s tools, if you have intent to use those tools in the commission of a breaking and entering crime or a home invasion. Burglar’s tools can include any type of tool which could pry or burn through a door or a vault. As an example, the possession of bolt cutters with the intent to use those cutters to cut a padlock off another person’s building could result in charges of burglar’s tools. Other commonly accepted burglar’s tools (depending on the surrounding circumstances), include:

  • Screwdrivers;
  • Lock picks;
  • Crowbars;
  • Hammers;
  • Torches, and
  • Explosives.

Penalties for a conviction of possession burglar’s tools can be up to a year in jail, or up to five years in prison under Mississippi Code 97-17-35.

The only crime of this nature which would not be charged as a felony is “trespass.” Trespass means you knowingly entered another person’s property without permission, however you did not have the intent to commit a crime, once inside. Penalties for a first offense of trespass are up to $250 in fines. For a second trespass conviction, the fine can go as high as $500, and you could spend from 10-30 days in jail.

Contact Our Jackson Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with any type of breaking and entering crime in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. These are serious charges and must be fought aggressively. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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