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The crime of burglary may be more subtle than one thinks

Hollywood likes to portray burglars as hardened criminals who are "breaking and entering" to do something extremely violent or nefarious. However, the crime of burglary in New York is actually a lot more subtle.

Under New York law, an individual commits third-degree burglary if he or she knowingly enters into a building or unlawfully remains in the building, intending to commit an illegal act therein. Let us unpack some of these phrases and see how the law defines them.

First, a building under the law is not restricted to brick-and-mortar structures. It also includes vehicles and watercraft intended for overnight lodging. Also included in the definition of "building" are enclosed motor trucks or truck trailers. If a building consists of multiple units that each have a separate lock or are separately occupied, such as an apartment building, each unit is considered both a separate building, as well as part of the entire building as a whole.

Second, let us consider the definition of "enter or remain unlawfully." In general, this means an individual is in or upon a piece of property that he or she has no privilege or license to occupy. If an individual remains on a piece of property that at the time is open to the public after being lawfully ordered to leave also meets the definition of "enter or remain unlawfully."

This definition is also met, if an individual has the right to be on one part of a building, but not another part of the building, and enters and remains on the part of the building he or she is not permitted to occupy. Finally, if an individual goes to a school and remains there without written permission or without a lawful reason also meets the definition of "enter or remain unlawfully."

Finally, keep in mind that the "intent to commit a crime" means any crime. It can be a theft crime, a violent crime or any crime at all. And, whether the crime is actually committed is irrelevant. As long as the intent to commit a crime is there, it satisfies that portion of the law.

As one can see, the crime of burglary is quite nuanced. An attorney may be able to explain the details of what constitutes burglary in New York, and can represent those accused of it if needed.

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