The definition of burglary in Washington DC involves the entering of a dwelling or other location with the intent to commit a crime. In the District of Columbia, it does not matter whether your entry involved breaking and entering or you entered without breaking. It also does not matter if it was daytime or nighttime. A situation involving these circumstances all fall under the umbrella of the offense of burglary.
Burglary is a serious criminal offense in the District of Columbia and is treated as a felony with mandatory minimum prison time. While some states have laws that contain provisions for up to a third (3rd) degree or even a fourth (4th) degree burglary, burglary in DC is split into only two degrees: first (1st) degree burglary and second (2nd) degree burglary.
1st Degree Burglary
Per DC Code §22–801(a), burglary in the 1st degree involves the entering of an occupied dwelling or room used as a sleeping apartment in any building with the intent to commit a crime. A basic example of 1st degree burglary would be climbing into a person’s bedroom through an open window while they were sleeping inside in order to steal their valuables.
It is important to note that the law only requires intent to commit a crime. Whether you actually managed to commit the crime does not matter. Following the example above, if you were arrested after climbing into that person’s bedroom but before you were able to steal their valuables, the prosecutor would still be able to convict you of 1st degree burglary if they could prove that you had the intent to steal the valuables.
A conviction for 1st degree burglary in DC carries a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. You may also be fined up to $75,000.
Note that the definition of 1st degree burglary is relatively narrow, requiring the place to be occupied and be specifically used as a dwelling or sleeping apartment. If the location is unoccupied or is not a dwelling or sleeping apartment, the offense falls to a burglary in the 2nd degree.
2nd Degree Burglary
Per DC Code §22–801(b), burglary in the 2nd degree broadly involves the entering of a place with the intent to commit a crime. The term “place” as defined by the statute includes the relatively mundane list of “any dwelling, bank, store, warehouse, shop, stable, or other building or any apartment or room, whether occupied or not,” but also specifies “any steamboat, canalboat, vessel, or other watercraft, or railroad car”, alongside “any yard where any lumber, coal, or other goods or chattels are deposited and kept for the purpose of trade.”
An example of 2nd degree burglary would be breaking into a store after hours in order to steal inventory, but keep in mind that it is just one example among many. The law defining 2nd degree burglary covers a great variety of situations, as it is intended to cast a wide net of coverage beyond the relatively specific circumstances involved in 1st degree burglary.
A conviction for 2nd degree burglary in DC carries a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. You may also be fined up to $37,500.
There are several circumstances under which the penalty for burglary will be enhanced. One such circumstance is committing the crime while armed—in other words, committing an armed burglary.
Under DC law, “armed” means being actually armed or having readily available any pistol or other firearm (or imitation thereof) or other dangerous or deadly weapon. Examples of a “dangerous or deadly weapon” include other types of guns, any sort of knife, or metallic knuckles—but the list is certainly not limited to those examples. Anything that is used or intended to be used to cause serious bodily injury or death qualifies as a “dangerous or deadly weapon”. The legal definition is broad on purpose so no loopholes can be exploited.
For the first offense of armed burglary, the sentence for a basic burglary conviction can be enhanced by up to an additional 30 years in prison. If the armed burglary was committed with any pistol or firearm, the additional penalty will be at least 5 years minimum.
For a second or subsequent offense of armed burglary, the maximum additional time in prison is still 30 years, but there will be a minimum additional time of 5 years. If the armed burglary was committed with any pistol or firearm, the additional penalty for a second or subsequent offense will be at minimum 10 years instead.
Additionally, for armed burglary committed using any pistol or firearm, there will be no possibility of release or parole before the minimum additional time is served.
Other special penalty enhancements to burglary apply when the crime is committed against senior citizens (persons 65 years old or older) and citizen patrol members. Burglary against these classes of persons will multiply the maximum penalties applicable—both fines and prison time—by 1.5 times the base amount.
In a similar vein, if the burglary is deemed a “bias-related crime”—in other words, a crime committed due to prejudice against a victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation—the maximum penalty applicable is also multiplied by 1.5 times.
Burglary requires entry into a location with the intent to commit a crime. What about when you enter a location, but without the intent to commit a crime?
As an example of this situation, let us say that you were denied entry to a nightclub by a bouncer. If you sneak into the nightclub through a back door, you did enter a location (without authorization, too), but there was no intent to commit a crime. You just wanted to enter the club.
In that case, the offense you would likely be charged within DC is “unlawful entry”. Under DC law, the offense of “unlawful entry” replaces the more commonly known offense of “breaking and entering.” Per DC Code §22–3302, the definition of unlawful entry (aka breaking and entering) is the entering—or attempting to enter—of any property without lawful authority; or remaining on a property once lawful authority to do so is revoked.
Unlawful entry is treated as a misdemeanor offense in the District of Columbia and conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to 180 days of jail time and/or up-to $1,000 in fines.
The bias-related crime enhancement applies to unlawful entry, multiplying the basic penalties by 1.5 times if the circumstances are applicable.
While there is no special enhancement for committing unlawful entry while armed, a prosecutor can argue that being armed demonstrates you had the intent to commit a crime, upgrading the offense into a burglary.
Getting a DC Burglary Lawyer or DC Unlawful Entry Lawyer
Navigating burglary or unlawful entry charges can be difficult and stressful, especially when a burglary is a felony offense in DC. That is why it is vital to consult an experienced DC Burglary Lawyer or DC Unlawful Entry Lawyer immediately if you are facing such charges.
The expert, professional attorneys at Ervin Kibria Law can help you sort out your options and develop solid, aggressive defense strategies to get your charges dismissed or at least minimize the penalties you face. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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