Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

How to Defend Against Breaking-in Charges

A man was arrested in November at the Barking Crab in the Seaport part of Boston. After responding to a reported break-in at the restaurant, law enforcement officers found the man stealing bottles of alcohol. The suspect then fell and cut himself on broken bottles as he attempted to flee the police. The suspect was then taken by the police to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

How Breaking and Entering is Categorized

Massachusetts Chapter 266 Section 16 defines the crime of “breaking and entering at nighttime with the intent to commit a felony” or “burglary.” This offense is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in state prison. To be convicted of the offense, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed the following:

  • At night time. The element of night includes the time between one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.

  • Breaks into a structure belonging to another person. The word ‘break’ is confusing, and the prosecution need not establish that a person broke anything. Instead, breaking can be found in the exertion of any type of physical force.

  • Enters a building or structure belonging to another person. This does not mean that a person’s entire body enters the structure; just a hand or arm is enough.

  • With the intent to commit a felony. Many times, it is difficult to show a person had the intent to commit a crime. If a person lacked intent, the only offense with which a person can be convicted would be trespassing, which is a much less serious offense.

Given these complexities, several strong defenses can be raised in response to a breaking and entering charge. This article considers just a few of the most common defenses.

Common Defenses to Breaking and Entering

Some of the most common defenses that are raised in response to breaking and entering charges include:

  • If the property owner consented to the individual’s location on the property, a defense might exist. Courts interpret consent narrowly, though. This means that if a property owner consented for a person to be one part of the property but not the area where the breaking and entering occurred, consent cannot be used as a defense.

  • If a person was mistaken about the property in such a way that the intent aspect of breaking and entering is negated, a person can raise a strong defense. This might involve a person breaking and entering someone else’s property while under the mistaken belief it was the trespasser’s property or that the property belonged to friends or family who provided that individual with consent.

Speak With a Criminal Defense Attorney

Remember, being convicted of breaking and entering or one of several other theft crimes in Massachusetts carries serious penalties including imprisonment, fines, and the lasting reputation of being a thief. To maximize your chances of avoiding these charges, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation, during which time attorney Molari will review your available options to respond to charges.