Breaking and Entering
Breaking and Entering Lawyer in Michigan
“Breaking and entering” often conjures images of adolescent hijinks, of bored teenagers getting into mischief on a Saturday night. In the constellation of crimes, when compared to murder, sexual assault, armed robbery, and so on, breaking and entering can seem almost innocuous. Don’t be fooled.
In Michigan, breaking and entering is a felony theft crime. What’s more, it’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Simply put, if you’re charged with breaking and entering, you need to take it seriously.
What exactly is “breaking and entering?” To prove the charge, the prosecutor needs to show three things. You will need a breaking and entering lawyer to defend you. Let’s take a look.
First, the prosecutor must show that you broke into a building. A “building” could be, for example, a factory, an office, a barn, or even a boat. (If you break into a home, you’ll be liable for home invasion, a more serious felony.) And “breaking,” for purposes of the law, doesn’t require that you actually break anything. Instead, the law only requires that you used some amount of force to enter the building. This could be, for example, opening a door or raising a window.
Second, the prosecutor must show that you actually entered the building. The law doesn’t require that your entire body enter the building. If any part of your body enters the building, that’s enough. So, for example, if you raise a window and stick your arm inside, you’ve “entered” the building as far as the law is concerned.
Third, the prosecutor must show that when you broke and entered the building, you intended to commit a felony or a larceny (a theft). What if you didn’t intend to commit a crime after entering the building? You’re not entirely off the hook. Although you haven’t committed breaking and entering, you have committed entering a building without the owner’s permission, a misdemeanor.
Will I go to jail for breaking and entering in Michigan?
No, if you’re convicted of breaking and entering in Michigan, you will not necessarily go to jail. But you might.
Unlike some crimes, there’s really no such thing as a typical breaking and entering. Although cliché, it’s true—every case is unique. The unique facets of your case will determine whether you do jailtime.
First, what were the circumstances of the offense? Was it a group of teenagers breaking into an abandoned building on a lark? Or was it a career criminal breaking into a factory to steal valuable parts? Obviously, the latter will be looked on more severely than the former.
Second, the victim’s input will usually be important. Is the victim out for blood, or is he or she more forgiving? Prosecutors and judges—who are elected—will normally try (within reason) to appease the victim.
Which brings us to the third facet—the prosecutor and judge, the most important actors in the criminal justice system. Every prosecutor and every judge has their own idiosyncratic views of crime and punishment. Even in a case involving a relatively harmless breaking and entering by a young offender, the prosecutor might advocate for jailtime to “teach them a lesson.” And some judges will accede. Others won’t. Knowing your prosecutor and your judge will be critical to predicting whether you can expect jailtime in your case.
Are there any defenses to a Michigan breaking and entering charge?
Yes, there are several defenses to a Michigan breaking and entering charge. Although, again, every case is unique, there are a few defenses that routinely crop up in these kinds of cases.
Perhaps most commonly, you can raise a lack-of-intent defense. In other words, you can argue that while you broke into the building, you didn’t have the intent to steal anything or commit a felony. The success of this defense, like any, depends on your facts. If you’re caught red-handed trying to pry the safe open, it’s going to be difficult to argue that you weren’t trying to steal anything.
If you weren’t arrested at the scene, you may be able to contest your identity as the perpetrator. Did the witness get a good look at who broke in? Was their view unobstructed? Did police use an unduly suggestive lineup technique? What’s more, there’s a wealth of scientific research showing that eyewitness identifications are extremely fallible, even when the witness is “100% sure” that their identification is correct.
But what if you didn’t break into the building at all? In that case, you should be able to raise an alibi defense—that you couldn’t have broken into the building because you were somewhere else at the time. The key to any alibi defense is coming up with hard evidence proving your whereabouts. Testimony from your girlfriend that you were at home watching TV will be less convincing than, say, a receipt from the store you were at, perhaps coupled with security camera footage showing you making the purchase at the store.