Is Burglary Considered a Felony in New Jersey?

man with a gun opening a door

Burglary is a serious crime across the United States, though not all punishments are the same. In New Jersey, burglary is always charged as a felony. Burglary is similar to breaking and entering. It is defined as the unlawful entry of private property with the intention to commit theft or another crime. Even if nothing is stolen or no other crime was committed, it will be charged as burglary if intent to do so is proven. For legal assistance in a burglary case, reach out to a Bergen County, New Jersey theft lawyer.

Are Robbery and Burglary the Same?

A common misconception is that robbery and burglary refer to the same thing. While the two are often used interchangeably, they are very different crimes. We defined burglary above as the crime of entering a property as a means of committing another felony. Robbery is stealing someone else’s property by force, whether it be threatening or using violence or injury.

What Are the Penalties for a Felony Burglary Charge?

In New Jersey, burglary charges can come in two forms, a second-degree charge or a third-degree charge. While they both are classified as felonies, a third-degree charge is less serious and therefore yields less harsh consequences.

Third-degree burglary penalties:

  • 3 to 5 years of jail time
  • $15,000 in fines

Second-degree burglary penalties:

  • 10 years of jail time
  • $150,000 in fines

The exact sentence will depend on your unique situation. The details of your case could cause a court to be more lenient with you or cause them to impose more strict penalties. If during the burglary you attempted to or succeeded in inflicting bodily harm on anyone or if you were carrying a deadly weapon, your conviction will probably come with a lengthier sentence or heftier fines.

New Jersey legislators have taken a more active role in reducing the population of state prisons. As a result of this effort, first-time offenders who commit less serious crimes will have a presumption of non-incarceration. This means that if you are charged with third-degree burglary and it is your first offense, you may receive probation and fines instead of a prison sentence. This is for lesser crimes and will not apply to any second-degree burglary convictions.

Can I Defend Against Burglary Charges?

With the help of a lawyer, you can build a defense for your burglary case. Your attorney may argue:

  • Mistaken identity
    • A witness may have misidentified you.
  • Lack of intention to commit a crime
    • If you entered the property illegally but did not intend to commit theft or another felony you could receive a lesser sentence.
  • Entered the property legally
    • You may claim that you had permission to be on the property.
  • Shoplifting
    • Sometimes shoplifting and burglary charges overlap. If you can negotiate your charges from burglary to shoplifting you may be given less harsh penalties.
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