Breaking and entering is one of those crimes that sounds straightforward. After all, both breaking and entering are descriptive words that directly call out the illegal activities being undertaken. Unfortunately, this actually leads people away from the truth.

As you’ll see, there are a number of crimes that involve some aspect of breaking and entering, but they don’t actually count as breaking and entering in the legal sense. We’ll start by defining breaking and entering before looking at crimes that are incredibly similar but handled differently. With this distinction in mind, we’ll be able to properly explore the potential penalties you face if you’re found guilty of breaking and entering in Ohio.

How is Breaking and Entering Defined?

Breaking and entering, as a crime, shares a lot of the same DNA as burglary. As such, it is worth taking a quick look at how burglary is defined. Burglary is committed when an individual uses force, stealth, or deception to trespass in an occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime. Let’s break down a few of those terms quickly:

  • Trespass: This means that you’ve entered a structure without permission to be there.
  • Occupied: Whether there is somebody in the structure or not. This is the key to understanding when breaking and entering becomes a burglary or not;
  • Force: This is any physical effort used to gain entry. This could be breaking a window but it can also be as simple as turning the doorknob.
  • Stealth: To sneak in, unnoticed.
  • Deception: Using lies and fraud to trick somebody into letting you into the premises. They may have offered you permission, but the grounds on which they did so was a lie.

There are different degrees that burglary can be tried at, but we’ll leave those for a different discussion.

Breaking and entering is a separate crime from burglary but you could view it as a modification of burglary. Breaking and entering happens when an individual enters an unoccupied structure using force, stealth, or deception, with the intent of committing any felony, though it is most often a theft they’ve had in mind.

Breaking and entering therefore contains all of the elements of burglary except for the occupied structure. However, an individual can break into and enter a structure they thought was empty and get tried for burglary when it is revealed somebody was home. The intent of the individual committing the crime can get superseded by the reality of the circumstances of the crime in this manner.

What are the Differences Between Breaking and Entering and a Trespass Crime?

Trespass is one of the key elements that make up both burglary and breaking and entering. However, both of these crimes require there to be additional elements in play; the most notable element being the intention of performing some kind of felony once the trespass has occurred.

There are a few crimes that are similar which we refer to as trespass crimes. These are important to be aware of because what is actually a trespass crime might at first be charged as breaking and entering. It helps to be able to show that your intentions did not align with those required for a breaking and entering charge and instead your case is a better fit for a trespass crime like:

  • Knowing Trespass (MISD): To enter or remain on someone else’s premises without permission
  • Reckless Defiance of Notice (MISD): Entering or remaining on someone else’s premises when notice against such access was given like a fence or a sign
  • Negligent Failure to Leave (MISD): Failing or refusing to leave someone’s property after being instructed to do so
  • Aggravated Trespass (MISD): A first-degree misdemeanor that occurs when trespassing with the intent of committing a misdemeanor that involves actual or threatened physical harm
  • Trespass in a Habitation: A fourth-degree felony whereby the offender trespasses in a habitation where a person is present or likely to be present.

The first three are all fourth-degree misdemeanors with the potential for 30 days in jail and a fine of $250. When compared to the penalties for breaking and entering, they are worthwhile considering during a plea bargain situation.

What Are the Possible Penalties for Breaking and Entering?

Breaking and entering may be a less serious offense than burglary, but that doesn’t mean that you should consider a breaking and entering charge as something to be ignored. It’s incredibly important that you work with an experienced attorney as quickly as possible after being charged, so you can avoid the penalties that come with a guilty verdict.

If you are found guilty of committing the crime of breaking and entering it is a fifth-degree felony, punishable by between six and twelve months in prison. Additionally, you will be charged fines up to $2,500.

It is to your benefit to find an attorney who can help dismiss your case or have it reduced to one of the lesser trespassing violations that results in a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and fine of $250. Although an aggravated trespass will land you in jail for 180 days with a fine of up to $1,000, it is still a much lesser penalty than breaking and entering. Trespass in a habitation sees a more serious punishment with six to eighteen months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

The key difference between these crimes, as far as punishments go, falls on whether or not there is another person present. A burglary is worse than breaking and entering because there is someone present. Similarly, a trespass in a habitation conviction carries a harsher sentence for the same reason.

Where Can I Get Help If I’ve Been Accused of Breaking and Entering?

If you’ve been accused of breaking and entering, then it is in your best interest to reach out to The Law Office of Brian Jones, LLC, where our experienced attorneys on staff will be able to listen to the details of your case and offer practical advice on how to build a defense and present your case in front of a judge.

With punishments that could see you away for more than a year, it’s important to act fast. The sooner you can work with an attorney on your defense, the stronger a defense they’ll be able to help build. This way, you can ensure that you miss out on as little of your freedom and time as possible.