Michigan Breaking and Entering Crimes
Under Michigan law, burglary, or “breaking and entering,” means entering a building or remaining in a building with intent to commit a crime – – not necessarily a theft – – inside the building. If the building being entered is a residence (or “dwelling”), the charge is for residential burglary. If the building is a place of business, the charge is for commercial burglary.
What are ‘breaking’ and ‘entering’?
Breaking and entering, also known as “B & E,” is actually two separate actions:
Breaking means making an entry into the building, vehicle, or container. Breaking can include using explosives to tear down a wall, shattering a window, or kicking down a door. But it is important to remember that the use of such severe force is not required. Opening a closed, but unlocked door or window (or even opening a slightly-open door even wider) is enough to qualify as “breaking.” In addition, entry that is achieved by fraud (for example, falsely telling the occupant of the house that you are a health inspector) constitutes a “constructive” breaking.
Entry is the act that follows the breaking. It happens when any portion of the intruder’s body is placed inside the structure. The “entry” can even be for just a moment – – for instance, placing your hand or foot just inside the door, and then withdrawing it.
What are the various burglary crimes in Michigan?
According to Michigan statute, a person who breaks and enters a building “with intent to commit a felony or a larceny therein” is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 10 years. If the crime is committed with a firearm (whether that weapon is used in the commission of the crime or not), the maximum sentence is up to 20 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
Other varieties of burglary include vehicular burglary (breaking into someone’s car, for instance, with intent of stealing the property therein), or “container” breaking and entering (opening a storage unit, breaking a display case, etc., with the intent to steal the contents).
It is also possible under Michigan law to be charged with “entering without breaking,” a crime that carries with it a maximum 5 year prison sentence or a $2,500 fine.
Michigan law also recognizes common law burglary, which is defined as the breaking and entering of a dwelling house of another, in the nighttime, with the intent to commit a felony inside.
The key to burglary is the intent of the person to steal or commit any other crime at the time that the building, vehicle, or container is entered. It is not necessary that the felony or theft be completed, only that it was intended at the time of the breaking. For example, if an intruder enters a residence through a window with the intent to steal items from the home but is chased away by the occupant of the dwelling, a burglary charge may still be brought.
If you are Facing Burglary Charges in Michigan
Sometimes, people being investigated for burglary make admissions to law enforcement about their involvement in the crime. This can include statements like the fact that they were at the location but did not break in. Generally, it is not in your best interest to admit anything to police officers, and therefore if you have made any statements up until this point in your case, now would be the time to stop doing so. Contact a burglary defense lawyer to discuss how to get these admissions suppressed at the pre-trial and trial levels.
Our Approach to Fighting Breaking and Entering Charges
In many burglary cases, evidence connecting the accused to the crime is questionable. It is not often that the police will actually be the ones who catch the accused in the act of breaking and entering. In fighting burglary charges, we will aggressively explore all of the evidence and intent issues in order to protect your rights and decrease your chances of conviction.
Evidence in a burglary case usually focuses on fingerprints (or other signs of breaking and entering left at the scene) and eyewitness testimony. While it might seem that a set of fingerprints at a crime scene would be conclusive evidence, this is not always the case. For example, if the accused had been a guest or worker within the building at some time before the burglary, the prosecution may not be able to show that the fingerprints were left at the time of the burglary.
Therefore, a common defense to burglary is that the suspect previously had a legitimate reason for being in the building. Eyewitness testimony can also be questionable since many burglaries occur at night “in the blink of an eye,” which are conditions that make eyewitness testimony unreliable. We have access to an entire team of scientific evidence experts, forensic science labs, and state of the art technology to defend against allegations of “B & E,” robbery, and other theft crimes.
Remember, if you did not intend to commit a crime at the time you entered the building or container, then you cannot be convicted of burglary. Proving intent is sometimes very difficult for the prosecution when no crime is actually completed. The motive for entering a building could simply be to find shelter in bad weather or to warn the occupant of a possible danger. In addition, if the intent to commit a crime was formed after the accused entered the building, there can still be no conviction for burglary, since the intent to commit a crime was not present at the time of entry.
These kinds of defenses are legal technical defenses and should be handled by a competent defense attorney. Our criminal attorneys have decades of experience fighting overcharging by police and prosecutors, untrue allegations, lying witnesses, incorrect identification by eyewitnesses, and constitutional violations.
Contact us about your legal matter today! Call us at 1-866-766-5245.