Burglary is a crime that stems from common law. The modern definition has changed in many jurisdictions, however, the essence of the crime remains practically the same. The wording used to define this crime can vary, but generally, a burglary charge is an accusation that someone entered a place unlawfully with the intention of committing an unlawful act. This offense is generally classified as a felony.
A breaking and entering charge and a burglary charge usually refer to the same offense. To be convicted of a burglary charge, there are at least two things the prosecution generally needs to prove. First, it must be shown that the accused individual unlawfully entered the place where the alleged crime took place. It should be understood that there is a difference between unlawful entrance and failing to inform others before entering. Even if a person climbs through a window in the middle of the night, if he has authorization to be where he is, one of the elements of the burglary charge cannot be fulfilled.
The second element the prosecution is faced with proving is premeditation. In many jurisdictions, a person can only be convicted of a burglary charge if he had the intention of committing the crime before he entered the place where the offense occurred. If a person enters a place for a valid reason, then decides to commit a crime, generally he will not be guilty of burglary.
A good example is a man who breaks into a shed on a cold night because his car has broken down and then he discovers valuable tools and steals them. This person entered the shed unlawfully but he did not initially have any intention of committing a crime. Since the idea to steal came after he entered the shed, in most cases, he is not guilty of burglary. Intent to commit a crime before entering a place can be proven in several ways, including by the confessions of accomplices or by the presence of special objects needed to commit the crime.
One factor of a burglary charge that can vary in different jurisdictions is whether or not the crime that is committed after a person enters a place is defined. In some jurisdictions, a successful burglary conviction may be dependent on theft. In other jurisdictions, the law may allow a person to be prosecuted if any type of felony is committed.
Another factor that varies regarding burglary charges is the manner in which a person enters a place. In some jurisdictions, it is required that force be used. This means that if a person leaves her door open and a person walks in and steals, he is not guilty of burglary. In other jurisdictions, it is not required for anything to be broken or for a person to use any type of force to enter a place.