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Why Are They Charging me With Burglary? I Didn’t Steal Anything? (Pt 1)

The subject of burglary charges in Michigan can be very complicated. You’d think it would be straight forward – if you break into someone’s house you get charged with a B&E (Breaking and Entering), and if you steal something, you get charged with Burglary. But it doesn’t work quite like that. Why? Because your intentions count as well, which can throw people off. We’ve had a number of very confused Lansing clients call us to ask why they’re being charged with burglary when they never even took anything. So we thought we’d try to break this down for all our readers state-wide. Our criminal defense team has handled these theft cases for more than 25 years, so we have a bit of experience understanding the differences.

A cartoon of a masked man slipping through a window with a bag of stolen loot over his shoulder

What’s the difference between a B&E, and Burglary in Michigan?

First, we need to clarify something – Breaking and Entering, Burglary, and Home Invasion are all separate crimes in Michigan. It may sound like they’re all the same thing, but they aren’t. Breaking and Entering refers to you illegally entering a building (or staying in a building) with the intention of committing a crime. This charge doesn’t include stealing anything. So someone from Three Rivers or Ann Arbor could be charged with a B&E for breaking into a home, even if they never took anything away with them.

Burglary is a separate crime from Breaking and Entering under Michigan law. Burglary would refer to you illegally entering a building without permission, and stealing (or trying to steal) someone else’s property. However, you don’t have to actually steal anything for the prosecutor to charge you with this crime. They only have to prove that you committed a B & E with the intention of stealing something. So a person could be charged with Burglary after breaking into a house in Grayling, even if they never made it out with anything that doesn’t belong to them. All they had to do was intend to steal something for it to count as Burglary.

How does the prosecutor prove you’re guilty of Breaking & Entering?

In order for you to be convicted of Breaking and Entering, the prosecutor has to successfully prove the following three things beyond a reasonable doubt in court:

  • First, they have to prove that you broke into a building. Nothing has to be technically “broken” for this charge to apply, they simply have to prove that you used force to open a door or a window to get into a building.
  • Second, they have to prove that you entered the building. You don’t have to have made it all the way inside for this to count. Even just putting your hand through a window, or leaning part of your body in through a door you opened counts.
  • And third, they have to prove that when you entered into a building, you intended to commit a crime (usually theft of some kind.)

How does the prosecutor prove you’re guilty of Burglary?

The key to burglary is your intent at the time you allegedly committed the crime. As long as you meant to steal something, or planned to steal something, you can be charged with Burglary. You don’t have to have been successful in your attempt for the prosecutor to charge you with Burglary. So if a person breaks into a house in Battle Creek or Detroit with the intention of stealing money, but gets scared away by the homeowner before they manage to take anything, they can still be charged with Burglary. The law looks at the state of mind, which attorneys call the mens rea. 

B&E and Burglary are very serious crimes in Michigan!

Join us next time for more information on B&Es and Burglary in Michigan, as well as a look at Robbery and Home Invasion charges. But if you’re facing any kind of property crime charges, don’t wait! Whether you’re being charged with a B&E in Grand Rapids, or Burglary in Midland, you’re potentially looking at years behind bars and major fines, and you’re going to need expert legal help. Here at The Kronzek Firm, our highly skilled team of legal bulldogs has decades of experience helping the people of Michigan’s lower peninsula fight criminal charges. So call 866 766 5245 to set up your free phone or zoom consultation today, and make sure your case is in excellent hands. We are available for emergency consultations and of course you should always call us BEFORE you speak to the police. As always, lawyer up!

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