commercial burglary (law) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

Commercial burglary is the entry into a non-residential structure to commit either theft or any felony.

Commercial burglary is a serious criminal offense that involves unlawful entry into a non-residential structure with the intent to commit theft or another felony. Non-residential structures may include commercial buildings, retail stores, offices, warehouses, factories, or any other type of building or structure that is not used primarily as a residence.

In most jurisdictions, the crime of commercial burglary is classified as a felony offense, which carries serious legal consequences such as imprisonment, fines, and a permanent criminal record. The specific elements of commercial burglary vary by jurisdiction, but they typically include the following:

      • Unlawful entry: The defendant must have entered the structure without authorization, whether by force, deception, or other means.
      • Non-residential structure: The defendant must have entered a building or structure that is not used primarily as a residence.
      • Intent: The defendant must have entered the structure with the intent to commit a theft or other felony.
      • Commission of a theft or felony: The defendant must have actually committed the intended crime, or taken some substantial step towards its commission.

One of the primary motivations for commercial burglary is the acquisition of property, which may be sold or traded for profit. In some cases, individuals or groups may target specific businesses or industries based on the perceived value of the goods or services they offer. For example, a jewelry store may be a target for theft due to the high value of the items it sells.

In addition to theft, commercial burglars may also engage in other types of criminal activity, such as vandalism, arson, or the production and distribution of illegal substances. These activities can result in serious harm to property, individuals, and communities and can have far-reaching social and economic impacts.

The consequences of a commercial burglary conviction can be severe, especially for repeat offenders or those who commit particularly serious crimes. Penalties may include lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, restitution, and other legal sanctions. In addition, individuals with criminal records may face significant social and economic barriers, including difficulty finding employment or securing housing.

To defend against commercial burglary charges, defendants may employ a variety of legal strategies, such as arguing that the entry was not unlawful, that they did not have the required intent, or that they were coerced or misled by another party. However, successful defenses may be difficult to mount in the face of strong evidence of guilt.

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Last Modified: 07/17/2021

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