Jersey City Burglary Lawyer
New Jersey considers burglary an extremely serious crime because it normally involves a home invasion. Therefore, this state has made burglary a Graves Act offense, if the defendant was armed with a firearm during the burglary or immediately after. This means that you will have to serve a mandatory term of incarceration without being eligible for parole. Moreover, The No Early Release Act (“NERA”) applies to second degree burglary convictions because it is considered a crime of violence so must serve 85% of the sentence without being eligible for parole or early release. An experienced criminal attorney can help navigate the court system and work with the County Prosecutor’s Office to help avoid penalties such as the ones mentioned above. As founding attorney, William Proetta, Esq. has handled thousands of criminal and municipal court charges including many burglary cases throughout his career. In past cases, we have secured our clients admittance into Pre-Trial Intervention, resulting in no conviction and no incarceration. We represent clients throughout New Jersey including Union City, Weehawken, Harrison, North Bergen, West New York, Secaucus, Kearny, and Bayonne. If you would like to speak with an experienced burglary lawyer please contact our Jersey City office today at (201) 793-8018 for a free initial consultation.
New Jersey Burglary Statute: N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2
The crime of burglary is addressed in the New Jersey criminal code under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. The statute defines the offense of burglary, as well as establishing the grading of the offense. The New Jersey burglary law is provided below, in pertinent part, for your reading convenience:
§ 2C:18-2. Burglary
a. Burglary defined. A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein he:
(1) Enters a research facility, structure, or a 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.
b. Grading. Burglary is a crime of the second degree 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 crime of the third degree. An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing” an offense if it occurs in an attempt to commit an offense or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission.
What Qualifies as Burglary in New Jersey?
It is important to note that burglary is technically considered a property crime. This is an important distinction because it means that a person does not need to steal anything or otherwise commit a theft in order to be charged with burglary. According to the statute, a person can be charged with burglary if they commit one of the following acts:
- Entering Property: The offender enters a structure without permission to do so and with purpose to commit a crime inside the structure.
- Remaining on Property: The offender surreptitiously remains in a structure with knowledge that they are not allowed to be there and with purpose to commit a crime inside the structure.
- Trespassing on Property: The offender trespasses on utility company property where fencing or signs make it clear that members of the public are not allowed to be present, and they do so with purpose to commit a crime on the property.
Again, an actual theft is not required for a person to be charged with burglary. The simple fact of entering a building or structure, remaining in a building or structure, or trespassing in a building or structure with the intent to commit any criminal offense is enough to get charged with burglary. Additionally, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2 makes it clear that the criminal offense does not have to be completed in order for authorities to bring burglary charges against the offender. Rather, the mere attempt to commit a crime once on the property or inside the building or structure is enough to be charged with burglary. This is very similar to how the burglary statute treats intent. For example, if the defendant unlawfully entered a private residence with the intent to steal jewelry or cash, but then never actually stole anything, the “attempted burglary” will still result in burglary charges.
Burglary is a Felony in NJ
Burglary is always classified as an indictable offense (a felony) in New Jersey. This means that an individual who has been charged with burglary is likely to face extremely harsh penalties if convicted. Since burglary is a felony, the prosecutor will need to seek an indictment from a grand jury in order for the case to be fully litigated. Once the grand jury has indicted the defendant on the burglary charges, the case is set to undergo the remainder of the criminal justice process in the county superior court, where it may then be scheduled for trial if not resolved alternatively beforehand. This process is very different from the process for lesser offenses, also known as disorderly persons offenses or misdemeanors.
NJ Burglary 2C:18-2 Penalties
The exact penalties that you may be subject to in your burglary case will depend on the grading of the charge. In most instances, burglary is classified as a third degree felony. However, the criminal statute does lay out two scenarios where an offender can be charged with second degree burglary:
- Bodily Injury: The offender purposely, knowingly, or recklessly inflicts or threatens to inflict bodily injury on someone in the course of committing the burglary.
- Weapons: The offender is armed with explosives or a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife, in the course of committing the burglary.
Basically, if the defendant assaults someone, threatens someone, or is carrying a deadly weapon, the burglary offense becomes more serious, and law enforcement is likely to elevate the grading of the charges to acknowledge that gravity. The following shows the particulars and penalties for 2nd degree and 3rd degree burglary charges:
- Third Degree: Enters a building with intent to commit a crime inside, 3 – 5 years in prison
- Second Degree: Someone is injured during burglary or armed defendant, 5 – 10 years in prison; presumption of mandatory incarceration
Beyond that, it should be noted that a person who is charged with second degree burglary is likely to also face other criminal charges that could lead to additional prison time. For example, if you physically harm someone while fleeing the premises after a burglary attempt, you could be charged with aggravated assault. Similarly, if you brandish a gun or other firearm while committing a burglary, you could face weapons offense charges such as unlawful possession of a weapon and/or possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. These additional criminal charges could make it easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction or get you to take a plea. Moreover, if you are convicted on multiple charges, it is a possibility that the prison sentences would be imposed consecutively. This means the judge could stack them on top of each other, so that you wind up serving years for the burglary conviction and then another stint of several years for the assault or weapons charge.
Hudson County NJ Burglary Criminal Attorney
Overall, the crime of burglary is completed the moment a defendant with intent to commit a crime inside enters a structure – which can mean a home, commercial building, car, or even a boat. Therefore, even if a defendant does not commit a crime once he gets inside the building it is still a burglary. Defending a burglary case can be very technical and complicated and often takes an experienced criminal defense lawyer to litigate legal issues. Proetta & Oliver is exclusively committed to defending clients for criminal and municipal court charges including burglary throughout New Jersey such as Bloomfield, Belleville, Guttenberg, Jersey City, Newark, Montclair, and Nutley. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced burglary defense lawyer then please contact our Jersey City office at (201) 793-8018 for an initial consultation.