The Three Degrees of Burglary

When most people think of “burglary” they probably immediately associate it with theft. While theft is commonly a component, it is not the only reason a person may be charged with burglary. If you are facing burglary charges, it is important to understand the three degrees of burglary and how they differ, as well the potential penalties for each of the charges. Here are the three degrees of burglary as defined by the state of New York:

  • Burglary in the third degree. A class D felony and lowest of the three charges, third-degree burglary is charged when a person enters a building (or remains in said building unlawfully) with the intent to commit a crime. While very basic in its definition, the class D designation is most notably defined by the lack of weapons, physical harm or threats.
  • Burglary in the second degree. A more complex version of the third-degree charge, it is a class C felony and is considered a violent crime under New York law. Application of this degree can also be affected if the building is a dwelling, if a weapon is involved or if physical harm is caused to another person.
  • Burglary in the first degree. The most severe of the charges, first-degree burglary is a class B felony. It is applied when the building is a dwelling. Escalation from second degree is caused by the use of a dangerous instrument. A potential defense exists if it can be proven said weapon was incapable of causing death or other serious injury. Success with that defense shall not exempt defendant from potentially being convicted of one of the lesser degrees.

Felonies in New York are assigned in descending weight from class A to E, and the felony classes are dependent upon which of the three degrees of burglary charges apply. New York defines burglary as “unlawful entry,” not necessarily via breaking and entering. This means that even if you gained entry to the location with keys or through an unlocked door, your presence in the building can garner you a burglary charge.

As with all crimes, punishment is heavily dependent upon any predicate charges, and felony charges deemed “violent” (typically those involving a weapon) carry a more severe punishment. The best way to establish a viable defense if you find yourself charged with one of the three degrees of burglary in New York state is to contact a knowledgeable defense attorney.