All states have laws that prohibit going into other people’s homes or onto their property without permission. Indiana has laws against burglary (breaking and entering into a building with the intent to commit a crime inside), as well as residential entry and trespass, which are less serious crimes. Home invasion burglaries are severely punished and the most serious home invasion burglaries can result in prison terms of up to 50 years. For more general information on these crimes, see Home Invasions, Burglary: Penalties and Sentencing, and Trespassing Penalties.
Traditionally, burglary was defined as breaking and entering into a home at night with the intent to commit a felony inside. Many states have done away with these requirements, but Indiana retains some of the traditional elements, such as the requirement of breaking and entering. A person “breaks and enters” by using even the slightest bit of force to gain entry into a building without permission. For example, opening an unlocked door or fully pushing open a door that has been left ajar both constitute “breaking” under Indiana law.
Indiana is overhauling some of its criminal laws, effective July 1, 2014. Under the law in effect until then, a person commits burglary by breaking and entering a building without permission with intent to commit a felony (a crime punishable by state prison) inside. Under the older law, burglary is punished more severely if:
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-43-2-1.)
Under the new burglary law that takes effect in July 2014, a person commits burglary by breaking and entering into a building with the intent to commit a felony or theft inside. For example, a person who breaks the window of a warehouse and sneaks inside to commit theft has committed burglary. Just like the old law, Indiana’s new law punishes more severely burglaries in which the defendant is armed or that result in injury to someone other than the defendant. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-43-2-1.)
In order to convict a person of burglary, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant entered into the building intending to commit a crime inside. Because defendants do not always announce their criminal intentions, how do prosecutors show what they were thinking? Usually, the defendant’s illicit intention can be determined by the circumstances. For example, a juror could find beyond a reasonable doubt that a man who is found in a church, having pried open the door and rifled through cabinets and drawers, entered the church with criminal intent. The crime of burglary occurs even if the intended felony or theft never occurs, so long as the defendant entered the building with the illicit intent.
Under both versions of the burglary law, home invasion burglaries, also called burglary of a dwelling, are punished more severely than burglaries of other buildings, such as stores or offices. A dwelling is any building, structure, or enclosed space that is a person’s home or place for sleeping. A dwelling may be permanent or temporary, movable or fixed. For example, a motor home is a dwelling, as is a fishing camp. Home invasion burglaries that result in serious injuries to anyone other than the defendant are the most serious types of burglaries under Indiana’s new law. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 35-31.5-2-107, 35-43-2-1.)
In Indiana, a person who breaks and enters another person’s dwelling without permission commits residential entry. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-43-2-1.5.) For example, an acquaintance who comes into your home without permission through an unlocked door to use your computer has committed residential entry. This crime, unlike burglary, does not require that the defendant entered in order to commit a crime.
A person commits trespass by entering onto property without permission from the owner. Under Indiana’s trespass law, a person commits the crime of trespassing by:
Criminal trespass is punished more severely if the defendant has a previous conviction for a crime that occurred on the same property, or if the property is:
(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-43-2-2.)
Most states have laws against the possession of burglary tools (items that are commonly used to force entry or commit theft) with the intent to use the tools to commit a crime. Indiana is one of the few states with no law criminalizing the possession of burglary tools. For more information on how even everyday items can become burglar’s tools, see Burglary Tools.
Under Indiana’s current law, burglary is a Class C felony (which can result in two to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000) and more serious burglaries are Class A or B felonies (punishable by six to 50 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000). Under the new law, effective July 1, 2014, burglary is a level 5 felony (punishable by two to eight years in prison and a fine), home invasion burglary is a level 4 felony (punishable by two to 12 years in prison and a fine) burglary that results in injury is a level 3 felony (punishable by at least six to 20 years in prison and a fine) and home invasion burglary that results in serious bodily injury (to anyone other than defendant) is a level 1 felony, punishable by a minimum term of 20 years and a maximum term of 50 years as well as a fine. Under the new law, burglary is a level 2 felony, punishable by at least ten years in prison and as much as 30 years, and a fine, if the defendant is armed or if the crime results in serious injury.
Until July 1, 2014, residential entry is a Class D felony, punishable by at least six months in jail or as much as three years in prison (a felony sentence), as well as a fine of up to $10,000. After July 1, it is a Level 6 felony. Level 6 felonies are punishable by a fine and six months in jail to two years six months in prison. Criminal trespass is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Under the older version of the law, more serious trespasses were class D felonies and under the new version of the law, they are level 6 felonies.
If you are charged with burglary, residential entry, or trespass in Indiana, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain the charges to you and tell you how to protect your rights so that you can obtain the best possible outcome in your case.