Burglary is a crime that is taken very seriously by law enforcement officers and prosecutors in the state of Maryland. Citizens want to feel safe and secure in their homes and also have a financial interest in recovering or being compensated for anything that may be broken or stolen during the commission of these crimes. Often victims feel very personally violated when they are victims of a burglary and they want to be highly involved in the investigation and prosecution of the alleged offender. Persistent involvement of victims puts pressure on the state to prosecute these crimes aggressively and pursue harsh sentences. This is one of the many reasons it is important to hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney immediately if charged with a serious felony such as burglary.
In Maryland the burglary statute breaks down the crime into four categories or degrees focusing in large part on the intent of the alleged burglar and the nature of the building or property that is broken and/or entered upon. The statute contains many technicalities that could be the difference between going to jail for up to 20 years or going home. Each degree of burglary has different elements but most sections require what is called a “breaking and entering.” This breaking and entering can be of a house, storehouse or a yard. A common misconception is that a door, window or other entranceway has to be physically broken in order to gain entry for there to be a “breaking.” This simply is not the case. A mere opening of an unlocked door or window can be enough to satisfy the breaking element of the statute.
The most serious of the burglary offenses is first degree burglary which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail. A first degree burglary is committed when a person breaks and enters another person’s home with the specific intent to commit a theft or a crime of violence such as robbery or rape.
A second degree burglary is the breaking and entering of a storehouse with the intent to commit theft, a crime of violence, or arson. A few examples of storehouses include any building or construction shelter, barns, stables, storerooms, public buildings or trailers.
A third degree burglary is defined as the breaking into someone else’s home with the intent to commit any crime, including crimes of violence or theft, as in the case of first degree burglary. A person who commits a first degree burglary has by definition also committed a third degree burglary but a person may commit a third degree burglary without committing a first degree burglary depending upon the crime that the person intends to commit.
A fourth degree burglary is the simple act of being inside a house or storehouse of another without permission. This section of the statute also includes entering someone’s yard without permission with the intent to steal from that yard or attached house. Being in possession of burglar’s tools, such as a crowbar, picklock, or jack, with the intent to use those tools to break into someone’s home or storehouse or even a car is also criminalized under the fourth degree burglary statute.
Burglary investigations can be very complicated and often involve the use of scientific evidence including fingerprints, DNA and cell phone technology. This evidence needs to be thoroughly analyzed and often requires the use of expert witnesses to properly prepare a defense. This is why it is imperative to hire highly experienced criminal attorneys immediately upon being charged with a serious crime such as burglary. Please contact the Criminal Defense Team at STSW to schedule a free consultation.