Virginia Burglary Lawyer

Burglary, also known as breaking and entering, means a forced entry into a building to commit an illegal act. The intended illegal act is usually theft, but the forced entry may also be for the purposes of murder, rape, or arson, and thus carry additional severe penalties.

Virginia recognizes two types of burglary (under Code 18.2): common law and statutory. Common law burglary is defined as illegally entering another person’s house at night time, which is defined as 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise. The earliest common law definition of burglary required that the offense be committed at night, although that is not now required in all states. To secure a conviction for this offense, it must be shown that the building belonging to another person was indeed broken into, that the break-in occurred at night, and that the purpose of the break-in was to commit a felony. If the intruder broke in with a deadly weapon, the offense is armed burglary. The penalties for the crime of common law burglary, which is a Class 3 felony in Virginia, are 5-20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. If armed common law burglary is committed, the felony becomes Class 2 and the prison time is 20 years to life and/or a fine of $100,000.

There are three types of statutory burglary in Virginia, and they all use the term “breaking and entering.” Breaking is defined as gaining entry through the use of force, no matter how slight. Actual breaking means using force for entry. Constructive breaking means that trickery, threats, or other devious means were used to let the intruder inside. Entering means that a part of the intruder’s body, even just a hand, has entered the building illegally. For information on other criminal offenses in Virginia, click here.

The three types of statutory burglary are:

  • Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit Murder, Rape, Robbery or Arson (Code
    18.2-90). The punishment for conviction is 5-20 years in prison and a fine of up to
    $100,000.
  • Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit Larceny, Assault and Battery, or
    Felony Other Than Murder, Rape, Robbery, or Arson (Code 18.2-91). The crime of
    arson has been expanded in most states. Actual burning is no longer
    necessary; smoke or soot damage can be defined as the crime of arson. The
    punishment for conviction is 1-20 years in prison or a jail sentence of up to 12
    months, and/or a fine up to $2,500.
  • Breaking and Entering a Dwelling House with Intent to Commit a Misdemeanor
    Other Than Trespass or Assault and Battery (Code 18.2.92). The punishment for
    conviction is 1-5 years in prison, a jail sentence of up to 12 months, and/or a
    fine up to $2,500.

In times past, the house or dwelling noted in burglary cases had to be the place where a person usually sleeps, even if it was unoccupied at the time of the break-in. Smaller buildings on the property were also covered under the law. Today, however, most states have enlarged that definition to include any structure that is enclosed even if people do not normally live or sleep there.

The State of Virginia also cites other forms of burglary. A person who enters a bank with a deadly weapon for the purpose of stealing money, bonds, or notes can be found guilty of a Class 2 felony (Code 18.2-93). A person who breaks into aircraft, railroad cars, or trucks can be found guilty of a Class 3 felony (Code 18.2-147.1). Just possessing burglary tools such as might be used to enter a building illegally is a Class 5 felony (Code 18.2-94). Stealing from parking meters or pay telephones and the like is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a first offense, which becomes a Class 6 felony on the second conviction.

Included under Virginia Code sections that cover burglary is the crime of criminal mischief. It may be charged as a felony depending upon the amount of damage. Virginia Code describes it as unlawfully destroying or damaging real or personal property without the intent to steal, such as defacing a statue. It is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor or Class 6 felony, depending upon the value of the property that is damaged.

Burglary in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a serious crime with serious consequences. If you have been charged with any form of burglary, your first step should be to contact a Virginia attorney who is experienced in dealing with the laws that govern this charge in the state. Let the best work for you.