Burglary in Suffolk County is a property offense that involves the breaking and entering of a dwelling place at night with the intention to commit a felony. Under Massachusetts laws, burglary can only be committed at night. There are, however, other provisions that address breaking and entering during the day. Generally, for a burglary charge to be established, the following elements must be present.
Breaking: the offender must have entered the building without the owner’s consent by force or simply by opening a locked entryway. However, entering through an unobstructed entrance, e.g., an open door, may not qualify as breaking.
Entering: this element is fulfilled where any part of the offender’s body or any object wielded by the offender extends into the building.
Nighttime: The entering must have been done either an hour following sunset or an hour before sunrise.
Intent to commit a crime: to satisfy this requirement, the prosecutor will have to prove that the defendant had the intent to commit a crime, usually theft. This requirement will usually be fulfilled even if the offender does not eventually commit the crime.
According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), Suffolk County registered a total of 378 burglary cases in 2016. Between 2016 and 2017, Suffolk County experienced a 23% drop in burglary cases; the crime dropped further by 19% when compared to the statistics of 2018. However, the county experienced a significant jump in burglary cases in 2019. When compared to 2018, there was a 198% increase. This also represents an 86 % rise from the 2016 figures.
Burglary and robbery usually involve allegations of theft, but there are certain differences between both crimes. First, burglary requires unlawful entry into a house, and this is not the case for robbery. Second, robbery entails the application of force or fear on another person to obtain property, whereas the application of force is not a fundamental element of burglary. Thirdly, while a robbery charge may require actual theft, burglary only requires an intent to commit a crime. In addition to differences in the elements of the crimes, both crimes also carry varying penalties upon conviction depending on the circumstances of each case. Burglary and robbery are both typically charged as felonies.
Burglary charges can result in serious consequences. However, the defendant can increase their chances of beating the charges by hiring an experienced attorney. A crime attorney will usually review the facts of a charge to determine the most applicable defenses that may include,
Mistake: The defense may argue that the offender had mistakenly entered the wrong home under the influence of substances like alcohol or drugs, or the offender was just reckless and out of character and had no intent to commit burglary.
Domestic Situation: if there was a domestic relationship between the offender and the victim, the defense might claim the entry at night was either an honest mistake or an ongoing disagreement related to other issues.
Consent of the owner: for a burglary charge to result in a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the acts complained of were done without the owner’s consent. Therefore, it is a defense that the owner consented to the guilty act.
Mistaken identity: The defense may claim that the victim could not have identified the burglar, especially where the burglar wore a mask.
The severity of a burglary charge in Suffolk County is dependent on certain circumstances, including the time of day, whether any person was injured, the possession of firearms, the intent of the offender, and the criminal history of the offender. Generally, burglary in Suffolk can be classified as
Unarmed burglary: This includes situations where the offender attempts to or breaks into a dwelling house without possessing any arms or assaulting occupants of the building, but with the intent to commit a felony. This offense attracts up to 20 years of incarceration in the state prison for a first-time offender. Subsequent offense attracts a minimum of 5 years in state prison.
Armed Burglary: This involves breaking into a dwelling house at night and assaulting a person lawfully occupying or while in possession of a dangerous weapon. The crime is punishable by life imprisonment in the state prison or any other term, including a minimum of 10-year imprisonment.
Breaking and entering at night: This offense involves breaking or attempting to break into a building, ship, vessel, or vehicle at night with the intent to commit a felony. This crime is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in the state prison or up to 2.5 years in a jail or house of correction.
Breaking and entering in the daytime: breaking into a building, ship, vessel, or vehicle in the day with the intention of committing a felony is punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years.
Suffolk County makes no distinction between commercial and residential burglary. However, certain states in the U.S punish residential and commercial burglary separately. Where this is the case, the distinction between residential and commercial burglary lies in the function of the property where the burglary occurred. Burglary committed on commercial property such as business, government, religious, or retail establishments will amount to a commercial burglary. In contrast, where the burgled building is a dwelling place, this will amount to a residential burglary. Punishments for residential burglary are usually more severe than commercial burglary.