Burglary in New Jersey

The crime of burglary is defined by the FBI as when a structure is unlawfully entered by someone to “commit a felony or theft.” Access to the structure does not need to result from forced entry to commit the offense. They define a structure as being an “apartment, barn, horse trailer, houseboat (when used as a permanent dwelling), office, railroad car, stable or vessel.” Their data indicates that more than 1.4 million total burglary offenses were committed in 2017 in the U.S.

New Jersey Burglary Data

The New Jersey State Police reported the following data regarding these offenses statewide:

  • A total of 16,482 burglaries occurred in 2018, which is a decrease of 25.1% compared to 21,997 in 2017.
  • There were 8,895 burglaries involving forcible entry in 2018, which is a decrease of 27.3% compared to 12,242 in 2017.
  • There were 5,853 burglaries involving unlawful entry in 2018, which is a decrease of 20% compared to 7,315 in 2017.
  • There were 1,734 burglaries involving attempted forced entry in 2018, which is a decrease of 28.9% compared to 2,440 in 2017.

Burglary Offenses (2C:18-2)

Burglary may be committed by entering a building or facility that is not open to the public with the intent to commit a criminal offense. It may be committed if an individual covertly remains in a building or structure when not lawfully permitted to do so. The offense may be committed by trespassing on the property of a utility company where it is clearly prohibited by signs or a barrier that prevents entry. In most cases, an offender is charged with a third-degree offense.

The crime of burglary may be charged as a second-degree offense under certain circumstances. This applies when “in the course of committing” the crime the offender intentionally or recklessly attempts to cause or does cause bodily harm. It may also involve committing the crime while visibly armed with “explosives or a deadly weapon.”

A burglary offense may be committed at any structure. The term structure is defined as being a “building, room, vessel, vehicle, or plane.” It also may include any location suitable for people to stay overnight or a place of business.

Unlicensed Entry to a Structure (2C:18-3)

Unlicensed entry is a lesser offense that is similar to burglary. It also involves unlawfully entering a structure without permission, discretely remaining in a public structure after it has closed, or trespassing on the property of a utility provider. The difference is that this offense does not require that there was intent to commit another criminal offense.

This crime is generally charged as a disorderly person offense. The charge may be elevated to a fourth-degree offense when the setting that is involved is a dwelling, research center, utility facility, chemical storage site or a school.

Defiant Trespassing

An act of defiant trespassing involves entering or remaining in a location where trespassing is clearly prohibited. This is a petty disorderly person offense that is committed defiantly based on any of the following:

  • It was communicated to the offender that trespassing was prohibited
  • Signs were clearly posted stating that trespassing is prohibited
  • Fencing or some other barrier to prevent entry did exist

Peering Into a Dwelling

This is a fourth-degree offense that involves someone peering into a dwelling or structure when not permitted. Peering involves looking into a structure through a window or other opening. It is an invasion of privacy that occurs when victims would have no reason to expect that they would be observed.

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

6 months

Up to $1,000

Petty Disorderly Person Offense

30 days

Up to $500

Valid Defenses

The court recognizes certain affirmative defenses that may be used by a party charged with these offenses. The defendant may contend that the structure involved was abandoned or it was open to the public at the time. The defendant may also assert that they believed the property owner had granted them permission or would have allowed them to enter the premises.

Presumption of Incarceration

Those convicted of a first or second-degree offense in New Jersey are generally sentenced to a period of incarceration. For a judge to consider an alternative to imprisonment there must be sufficient grounds. The sentence of imprisonment is needed to deter the offender and others from committing criminal activity.

For third and fourth-degree offenses, this presumption of incarceration does not exist. A judge may still impose a sentence, yet is unlikely to do so in cases where the defendant is a first-time offender.

Terms of Imprisonment and Eligibility for Parole

When a period of incarceration is ordered for a first, second, and third-degree offense, it must be for a minimum term of three years. The judge also has the discretion to add a minimum term that must be served before there will be parole eligibility. Periods of parole ineligibility may extend for up to one-half of the maximum sentence.

Special Probation in Burglary Offenses

New Jersey legislators have implemented a “special probation” option that courts may consider as an alternative or diversionary sentence. Those who are assessed by a professional and deemed to be dependent on drugs or alcohol may qualify. Special probation spans a period of five years. It typically involves a residential treatment program where the participant is subject to testing for drug or alcohol usage.

The statutory provisions state that those convicted of first or second-degree offenses are not eligible for the special probation option. There are two exceptions that apply specifically to second-degree robbery and burglary offenses. It may be reasonable to assume that an offender may be committing these theft offenses to support an addiction.

Skilled Legal Representation for Theft Offenses in New Jersey

Those who have been arrested on burglary charges or for other serious theft offenses should promptly seek defense counsel. Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense attorney that has many years of experience defending these cases in the New Jersey courts. Contact the office today for a case evaluation at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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