Is It Still Burglary If I Didn't Commit a Theft Crime?

Let's say you're at someone's door. You knock; they don't answer. You wiggle the knob; it's locked. But, for whatever reason, you want to get inside. So you force the door open with your shoulder and enter the residence. After you're inside, you don't actually take anything.

You might wonder whether your actions are considered burglary. The answer is that it depends on your intent.

Entering a Home with the Intent to Commit a Theft or Any Felony

In Arizona, a person commits burglary when they unlawfully enter or remain in a home (or nonresidential structure). "Unlawfully entering or remaining" means that the person was acting without permission from the owner or other authority, or that they were asked to leave the premises but did not.

But the definition of burglary does not stop there. For a person to be charged with this crime, they must have engaged in the conduct with the intent to commit a theft or any felony while they were in the home or structure.

Now, applying your actions in the hypothetical example given earlier to the definition of burglary, they may or may not be considered a violation of the law. If the reason you forced the door open and walked into the home without the owner's consent was to steal something or commit an assault, then you are committing a crime, even if you didn't actually complete the intended offense.

More specifically, you may be accused of second-degree burglary, which is a class 3 felony, a conviction for which carries a prison sentence of up to 8.75 years. However, if you had an explosive, deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument on you at the time of the offense, you'd likely be charged with first-degree burglary. This crime is a class 2 felony, which is punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison.

That being said, even if you unlawfully entered the home without the intent to commit (or actually commit) a theft while there, that does not mean you can't be criminally charged. You may be accused of a separate offense referred to as criminal trespass.

Entering a Home without the Intent to Commit a Crime

Similar to Arizona's burglary law, criminal trespass provides that it's illegal for someone to knowingly enter or remain in or on a residence when they have no permission to do so. However, it differs from burglary in that the individual does not have to intend to commit a theft or felony while there.

Let's return to the example given earlier. If you unlawfully entered the home and simply served yourself a glass of water, you're committing criminal trespass in the first degree. This crime is a class 6 felony, and you may be penalized by 2 years in prison.

At Oliverson & Huss Law PLLC, we understand the seriousness of property crime charges, which is why our Tempe attorneys fight aggressively to challenge them. If you've been accused, call us at (480) 351-2228 or contact us online today. We'll deliver the defense you need.