Burglary under N.J.S.A. 2c:18-2

burglary, N.J.S.A. 2c:18-2The investigation of a November 1st breaking-and-entering by East Greenwich police resulted in charges against Daniel E. Holmes. The burglary allegedly occurred in Clarksboro, New Jersey, at a Heritage’s store on Kings Highway, according to nj.com. Apparently police responded to the scene for an alarm activation, and found the store’s front glass door smashed with a brick. Cigarettes were the only items stolen, according to the media.

Consequently, local authorities charged Holmes with burglary as well as other crimes, according to the press. Additionally, authorities believe Holmes allegedly participated in other recent smash-and-grab burglaries in Gloucester County.

Burglary under New Jersey Law

New Jersey law provides, “A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein, he:

  1. Enters a research facility, structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof unless the structure was at the time open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter; or
  2. Surreptitiously remains in a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so.

Burglary is a second degree crime if in the course of committing the offense, the actor:

  1. Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone; or
  2. Is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon.

Otherwise, burglary is a third degree crime.

The Contrast Between Common Law and Modern Definitions of Burglary

Common law defined burglary as breaking and entering someone else’s dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony therein. Accordingly, common law required proof (1) breaking, (2) entering, (3) another’s dwelling, (4) at night, and (5) intent to commit a felony inside.

The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, however, does not use these elements. Instead, New Jersey law comports with the Model Penal Code. Accordingly, this represents an expansion in the legal definition of this crime.

First, common law burglary applied only to dwelling houses. But the modern definition of burglary applies to any part of a research facility or structure. Therefore, modern law expanded the places included in the crime’s definition.

Second, common law required proof of breaking and entering. But modern law only requires proof of entering or surreptitiously remaining without permission. Therefore, modern law does not require the government to prove breaking.

Third, common law limited burglary to nighttime incidents. Modern law, however, proscribes the conduct at any time. Therefore, the government can charge an individual irrespective of when the conduct took place.

Finally, common law required proof of the actor’s intent to commit a felony inside. This excluded intent to commit a misdemeanor. Modern law, however, defines the criminal intent with respect to “an offense.” Thus, this includes both indictable and disorderly persons offenses.

Accordingly, under modern law the State must prove the actor entered a structure with the purpose to commit an offense. Despite the broader definition of this crime, unless the suspect confesses to police or in court, the government must rely on circumstantial evidence to prove its case.

Experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Smolensky, Esquire, knows how to protect his clients. Mr. Smolensky can provide consultations on any case regarding burglary. Call Now—(856) 812-0321.