Burglary & Related Offenses (Va. Code §18.2-89, et.seq.)

Burglary is an extremely serious criminal charge.  In Virginia, there are several different charges of burglary and, depending upon the charges and circumstances, the possible punishment for Burglary can be up to life in prison.      

Burglary was illegal at common law and Virginia adopted the common law, so Virginia’s first Burglary laws came from decisions of judges and case law, as opposed to laws created by legislators and lawmakers.  Since that time Virginia has codified the law and has a Burglary statute setting forth the elements of Burglary as it existed at common law.  Under common law, Burglary was the breaking and entering of the dwelling house of another, in the nighttime, with the intent to commit larceny or a felony.

Of course, the offense of common law Burglary remains illegal, but it wasn’t nearly broad enough and it left much to be desired.  What if the burglar didn’t break in but rather walked through an open door?  What if it wasn’t at night?  What if it wasn’t a dwelling house?  What if the intention wasn’t to commit larceny or a felony?

Virginia legislators have since added other laws to expand the definition of Burglary in order to close these loopholes and make illegal conduct that seemed like Burglary but wasn’t covered by the definition of common law Burglary.  For example, Virginia’s Burglary laws now address daytime and nighttime entries, into places other than just dwelling houses, sometimes without even a breaking, and/or with the intent to commit not just felonies, but also most misdemeanors.

The “breaking” referred to in the Burglary context can be actual or constructive.  Actual breaking is using any amount of force to gain entry, such as pushing open a door, turning a key, or lifting a hatch.  Constructive breaking can include threats, fraud, trickery, conspiracy or other conduct designed to prompt an allowed entry.

Common Law Burglary     (See Va. Code §18.2-89)

Common law Burglary involves the breaking and entering of a dwelling house of another, in the nighttime, with the intent to commit larceny or any felony.  Common law Burglary is a felony offense punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.  However, if the perpetrator is armed with a deadly weapon the maximum punishment increases to life in prison.    

Statutory Burglary  (See Va. Code §§18.2-90, 18.2-91, 18.2-92)

These statutes, covering what are referred to as Statutory Burglary offenses, close the loopholes by making it illegal to commit Burglary-like offenses which did not fall within the scope of common law Burglary.  Burglary is no longer limited to just dwelling houses; instead, burglary laws now include other types of buildings and even certain inhabited vehicles.  Similarly, Virginia’s statutory Burglary laws go beyond the breaking and entering at night required for common law Burglary.

 Armed Burglary of a Bank  (See Va. Code §18.2-93)

Virginia has a separate statute specifically addressing Burglary of a bank while armed with a deadly weapon, which indicates the punishment for this offense is a minimum of 20 years up to life in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000.

Possession of Burglary / Robbery / Larceny Tools  (See Va. Code §18.2-94)

In Virginia, it is a felony to possess any tools, implements, or outfit which might be used for burglary, robbery or larceny, with the intent to use those items for burglary, robbery or larceny.  That doesn’t seem so bad.  However, the statute also says mere possession of these items allows a court to conclude you intended to use them in violation of the statute.    

If you’ve been charged with a Common Law Burglary, a Statutory Burglary, a Bank Burglary, an Unlawful Entry, Trespassing, or any other Misdemeanor or Felony Criminal Offense in Virginia, you need an experienced, aggressive Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney.   Call The Wilson Law Firm now - toll free at 877-CRIM-LWYR  or 703-361-6100.