Understanding Your Burglary Charges In New York

To most people, words like burglary, shoplifting, larceny, and robbery have roughly the same meaning: After all, they’re used as casual synonyms for stealing in pop culture. However, the semantics make a big difference under New York law, and if you’re facing burglary charges, you’ll need to be prepared for some unique challenges.

At King Law, our committed Rochester theft crime defense lawyer can fight for your rights in the face of a burglary charge. Over the years, Attorney Robert King has dismissed or reduced the charges in felony cases more than 84% of the time, due to his relentless advocacy on behalf of the accused. He can apply that same advocacy to your case, and help you better understand your burglary charges.


All theft crimes revolve around the concept of criminal intent, or mens rea. If the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) you stole something, 2) the item meets the value requirements for that particular charge, and 3) you had a specific criminal intent to steal it, you can be convicted of a wide range of theft crimes.

Burglary does involve criminal intent – but unlike other theft crimes, prosecutors don’t actually need to show that you stole anything. Burglary is just trespassing, forced or otherwise, with the specific intention to commit a crime. It doesn’t matter if you were successful in committing robbery, murder, or other crimes while on the premises, and it doesn’t matter if the door was unlocked or open. As long as the prosecution can prove that you entered a building with criminal intent, they can often get some degree of burglary conviction.


Burglary is always a felony charge, and it’s taken incredibly seriously by police and prosecutors, especially in the Greater New York City area. Because of the supposed frequency of break-ins throughout the city, prosecutors love making an example out of alleged burglars, even though major crime rates in New York City have been decreasing for more than a decade now.

There are three different degrees of burglary charge, all of which carry a fine of up to $5,000:

  • Third-degree burglary: Third-degree burglary is given for the act of trespassing with criminal intent. It’s the least severe type of burglary charge, but it’s still a Class D felony, and punishable by 1 to 7 years of jail time.
  • Second-degree burglary: To prove second-degree burglary, prosecutors also need to show that the building you illegally entered was a dwelling place, and that you may have been carrying firearms or explosives. This is a Class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
  • First-degree burglary: Burglary in the first degree is the most serious charge, and as a Class B felony, you could spend up to 25 years in jail. To be convicted of burglary in the first degree, you must have met all the previous burglary requirements, plus proof that you were armed, caused physical injury, or brandished a weapon.


When you’re facing a burglary charge, it’s crucial that you speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even a third-degree burglary conviction can change the course of your life and permanently mark you as a felon, so you’ll need to act fast in order to protect your future.

When creating your defense, a good theft crime attorney will review every detail of your case file and look for issues with the alleged criminal intent. Because burglary is so dependent on your mens rea, it may be possible to reduce or dismiss the charges, on the basis that you did not intentionally trespass or intend to commit any crime in the building.

Even if it can be shown that you committed another crime, it may not be enough to justify a burglary charge as well. Regardless of the reason for your charges, you deserve an honest and fair defense under the Constitution, and a theft crime defense lawyer who will fight on your behalf.

Ready to speak with Attorney Robert King about your burglary charges in New York? Call us at (585) 270-8882 to schedule a consultation in Rochester.



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