Burglary. Most people know it as when someone breaks into a building and tries to steal something. That’s the image we’ve seen portrayed countless times in movies and TV shows.
However, that’s only part of what “burglary” means under the law. To start with, theft doesn’t have to be involved. While it is the crime most commonly associated with burglary, the law simply says that someone needs to illegally enter with the intent to commit a crime. It could just as easily be an assault or vandalism that is the goal.
Additionally, burglary doesn’t have to involved entering a building. It could be a different type of structure altogether.
Because of all this confusion, in this post we’re going to cover what, exactly, constitutes burglary in Minnesota, describe the various degrees of burglary in Minnesota, and cover charges related to burglary.
Elements of a Minnesota Burglary
Minnesota defines burglary as breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony once inside, or as breaking and entering and actually committing any crime.
To be convicted of burglary, both elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Burglary is therefore, in many cases, a crime of intent, meaning that it is often difficult for prosecution to prove.
Entering the Building or Structure
The first element of burglary is unauthorized entry into a building or structure. This can be accomplished by breaking and entering, or by remaining in a building after your permission to be there has expired. For example, by staying in a store after it has closed.
Importantly, entry does not need to be forced for the offense to be considered burglary. It only needs to be unauthorized. For example, entering a home through a door the homeowner forgot to lock still constitutes unauthorized entry.
Entering with Criminal Intent or Proof of Actual Crime
The second element of burglary focuses on the defendant’s state of mind at the time of unauthorized entry. To be convicted of burglary, the defendant must intend to commit theft or another criminal offense once inside. However, the intended crime does not have to be committed for a conviction to occur. The prosecution must only prove criminal intent.
Of course, this element may also be satisfied by the actual commission of a crime once inside. If an actual crime is committed, the defendant will face charges for the crime in addition to burglary charges.
The Four Degrees of Burglary in Minnesota
Minnesota recognizes four degrees of burglary, which are dependent on the crime committed, the type of building involved, use of weapons, and whether the defendant used force or threat of force against another.
Burglary in the First Degree
Burglary in the first degree occurs when the defendant enters a building without authorization and with the intent or actual commission of a crime and:
- The building is a dwelling, and another person who is not an accomplice is present,
- The defendant possesses a dangerous weapon or something that a reasonable person would believe is a dangerous weapon, or
- The defendant assaults someone in the building or on the property.
Burglary in the first degree is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $35,000.
Burglary in the Second Degree
Burglary in the second degree occurs when the defendant enters a building without authorization and with the intent or actual commission of a crime and:
- The building is a dwelling, or
- The area of the building entered has a banking or other similar financial business and the entry is made with force or threat of force; or
- The area of the building has a pharmacy or other lawful business that dispenses controlled substances; or
- The defendant possesses a tool that may be used to gain access to money or property.
Burglary in the second degree is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
Burglary in the Third Degree
Burglary in the third degree occurs when the defendant enters a building or other structure without authorization and either (a) intends to commit theft or any felony or gross misdemeanor, or (b) actually commits one of these offenses.
Burglary in the Fourth Degree
Burglary in the fourth degree occurs when the defendant enters without authorization and (a) intends to commit a misdemeanor other than theft, or (b) actually commits a misdemeanor other than theft.
Burglary in the fourth degree is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
Minnesota Crimes Related to Burglary
Possession of Burglary Tools
Minnesota also criminalizes the possession of a burglar’s tools with the intent to use them (or permit them to be used) in a burglary. These are generally tools used to pry or burn open doors, or to break windows. This is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and fine of up to $5,000.
If the defendant gains unauthorized entry into a building, but the intent or actual commission of a crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant can be charged with criminal trespass. This is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
As you can see charges for burglary and related offenses are quite serious, but it is important to remember that a burglary charge does not mean that you will be convicted. Depending on the circumstances the alleged offense, a number of defense strategies may be available to help your case.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.