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Can police arrest me for burglary if I did not steal anything?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Society often speaks of robbery and burglary together, and so they might be two of the most frequently confused criminal offenses by the general public. In fact, they have very little in common beyond the goal of committing a crime. You do not have to steal, or even intend to steal, for your offense in Illinois to meet the requirements for burglary, as explained by FindLaw. 

For hundreds of years, the burglary concept has protected the public against malicious entry into their residence. For prosecutors to substantiate a burglary charge, three elements must exist: breaking and entering without permission, a structure that typically shelters people or possessions, and an intention to perform an illegal activity within. 

Breaking and entering 

Breaking into a building can be either “actual” or “constructive.” An actual break-in requires a physical action of virtually any degree, such as smashing a window or nudging an unlocked gate. Constructive break-ins consist of non-physical criminal deception or coercion, such as fraud or bribery. The act of breaking does not qualify as burglary; you actually have to enter the structure, even though you do not have to go in far. 

Sheltering structures 

Generally speaking, the law defines this element as a building or structure assumed to be sheltering humans, livestock or possessions. Therefore, climbing over a park fence will probably not generate a burglary charge, but it could if you go on to sneak into the ranger office. 

Criminal intent 

You may kick down a stranger’s door, run into his house and still not be guilty of burglary. However, if you intend to commit a crime while inside, law enforcement could arrest you for burglary even if you turn around and leave immediately. While breaking and entering usually produces hard physical evidence, intent can be more subjective and thus more difficult for a prosecutor to prove.