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Is Breaking and Entering Considered a Misdemeanor or a Felony in New Jersey?

When you find yourself accused of breaking and entering in New Jersey, it can feel like you're navigating a complex world of legal terms and potential consequences that might seem insurmountable. Understanding the distinction between misdemeanor and felony charges is paramount in determining your next steps and assessing the potential impact on your future. This article aims to shed light on the complex legal framework surrounding breaking and entering charges in New Jersey, guiding you through the definitions, variations, and the vital role of having experienced legal counsel, such as Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, to stand by your side.

Understanding Breaking and Entering in New Jersey

In New Jersey, the term "breaking and entering" might bring to mind images of someone sneaking into a building through a window or door. However, in the eyes of the law, this concept is part of a broader category known as burglary. To put it simply, if someone unlawfully enters a place like a home, office, or even a closed store, with the intent to commit an illegal act inside, it's taken very seriously.

But here's where it gets a bit more complicated: not all acts of breaking and entering are treated the same way by the legal system. The law looks at several things to decide how severe the crime is. For example, did the person break a window to get in, or was the door already open? What was the person planning to do once inside? The answers to these questions can significantly influence whether the act is deemed a lesser offense or one warranting more severe legal consequences.

Misdemeanor Charges

Consider a scenario where an individual trespasses through someone's yard or enters an abandoned building just to look around. These actions might be wrong, but they don't have the same intent to harm or steal as other crimes. In New Jersey, these kinds of actions might be classified as misdemeanors. These are less serious charges that could result in penalties like fines, community service, or short-term imprisonment.

Felony Charges

The situation shifts dramatically when the act involves more sinister intentions. Imagine someone breaking into a home, not just to look around, but with the plan to steal valuables or commit an act of violence. This is where the law steps in with a much firmer hand, classifying such actions as felonies. Felonies are serious crimes that reflect the perpetrator's intent to harm society. The consequences are accordingly severe, potentially leading to years behind bars, hefty fines, and a permanent mark on one’s criminal record.

Factors Influencing the Severity of Charges

Several factors can tip the scales toward more severe charges when it comes to breaking and entering. These include:

  • Was there a weapon involved? The presence of a weapon during the act of breaking and entering significantly escalates the perceived threat and, consequently, the severity of the charges. It suggests a readiness to commit violence, making the crime more serious.
  • Does the person have a history of similar crimes? Individuals with prior convictions, especially for similar offenses, are likely to face harsher penalties. The law tends to be stricter with repeat offenders, under the assumption that previous punishments were insufficient deterrents.
  • Did anyone get hurt? The outcome of the breaking and entering plays a significant role in the legal process. If the act resulted in physical harm to someone or significant property damage, the charges and subsequent penalties would be more severe.
  • What was the intent? The perpetrator's intention at the time of the crime is a crucial factor. Was the break-in a misguided adventure, or was it a calculated step in a plan to commit further illegal activities? The law differentiates between foolishness and felonious intent.

When facing breaking and entering charges in New Jersey, it's crucial to understand that the law provides for various defenses that can be used to challenge the accusations. Each case is unique, and a defense that might be highly effective in one situation could be irrelevant in another. Here are some of the most common legal defenses used in breaking and entering cases:

  • Mistaken Identity: One of the most straightforward defenses is proving that the accused was not present at the scene and is being wrongfully accused.
  • Lack of Intent: Demonstrating that the accused had no intention to commit a crime upon entering can significantly mitigate the charges. For example, if someone entered a building seeking shelter from a storm, this could be a valid defense.
  • Lawful Presence: If it can be shown that the accused had permission to enter the property, the basis for the breaking and entering charge falls apart. This could be through explicit permission or a reasonable belief of such.

Navigating these defenses requires a deep understanding of New Jersey's legal system and the ability to construct a coherent and persuasive argument. This is where the expertise of a seasoned criminal defense attorney becomes invaluable.

The complexities of the legal system can be daunting, especially for those facing serious charges like breaking and entering. The consequences of a conviction can be life-altering, including substantial fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record that can affect employment, housing, and more. This is why having knowledgeable legal representation is not just beneficial but essential.

Contact Attorneys Hartman, Chartered Today For a Free Consultation To Discuss Your Criminal Defense

At Attorneys Hartman, Chartered, we understand the gravity of your situation and are here to offer the steadfast legal support and guidance you need during this challenging time. Our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys specializes in navigating the complexities of New Jersey's legal system, ensuring that your rights are protected every step of the way.

With a focus on personalized attention, we tailor our defense strategies to the unique circumstances of your case, aiming to achieve the best possible outcome, committed to providing a robust representation that addresses your specific needs.

If you're facing breaking and entering charges, don't navigate this complex legal landscape alone. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your criminal defense.

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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
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Moorestown Office68 E. Main StreetMoorestown, NJ 08057
Fax: 856.273.8617
Map + Directions