When you imagine burglary or home invasion, you may think of images from the movies: a black-garbed “cat burglar” sneaking up drainpipes and into an open window; or a masked gunman kicking your door in. But state laws include more than what we see on the big screen.
Each state has its own laws defining burglary (including home invasion, which is the burglary of a dwelling), attempted burglary, and trespass. And penalties vary according to the circumstances of the crime, as described below.
In Iowa, burglary is defined as entering or remaining in an occupied structure without the legal right to do so, with the intent of committing a felony assault or theft inside. These two parts of the definition are known as the “elements” of the crime of burglary, explained more below.
Under Iowa law, the definition of “occupied structure” includes any building or vehicle (or surrounding land) that is adapted either for overnight accommodation, for the purposes of carrying on business activity inside, or for storing anything of value.
A building may be an occupied structure without anyone actually being present, although it must be big enough for a person to physically enter inside (so a small safe deposit box cannot be an occupied structure, but a walk-in shed used for storing valuables may be one ). (Ia. Code Ann. § 702.12.)
Under this definition, a house is one type of occupied structure (whether or not someone is actually home). And while a burglary that occurs in a house is often called a “home invasion,” it is otherwise the same crime as burglary, and punished as described in the section entitled “Penalties,” below.
To be convicted of burglary, both elements of the crime must be proved beyond a doubt (or admitted to by the defendant). That is, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant actually entered the building, and entered with the intent to commit a felony assault or theft. Without sufficient proof of each element, the prosecutor may secure a conviction for some other crime (such as trespass or attempted burglary), but not burglary.
The first element of the crime of burglary—entering—may be accomplished in two ways: by entering or breaking into property that you don’t have permission to enter in the first place, or by remaining on property after the time you are permitted to be there has expired.
An example of the second scenario includes legally entering a department store during business hours, but then hiding when the store closes to the public in order to steal merchandise after hours. It also includes attending a dinner party, but remaining in the house once other guests have gone without your dinner hosts’ invitation or permission, with the intent to assault someone in the home or to steal something from it. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.1.)
The second element of burglary concerns the defendant’s state of mind at the time he or she entered the building. To be convicted of burglary, the defendant must have decided to commit a felony or theft, and then entered the building (or stayed beyond the permitted time) for that purpose.
Burglary is broken into several categories, with fines and prison terms increasing according to the severity of the crime. And in some cases (for example, if the crime involved sexual assault), the defendant will have to register as a sex offender. To learn more about sex offenses in general, see State Sex Offender Registration , and Iowa Sexual Battery Laws.
Burglary in the first degree is a class B felony and occurs when the defendant enters an occupied structure with one or more people present, while any of several specified circumstances apply (for example, while the defendant possessed a firearm or explosive device, or if the defendant inflicted bodily injury on someone during the burglary). (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.3.)
Burglary in the second degree is a class C felony and occurs when the defendant enters an occupied structure while no one is present (other than accomplices), while in possession of a firearm or explosive device, and bodily injury resulted to any person (for example, to a passer-by who came to investigate).
It also includes a burglary perpetrated when one or more people were present in the building (other than accomplices), but by a defendant who possessed no firearms or explosive devices, and no one got hurt. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.3.)
Burglary in the third degree is usually a class D felony (but may also be an aggravated misdemeanor under certain circumstances) and is a “catch-all” category for circumstances that do not fall into first or second degree crimes. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.6A.)
Attempted burglary differs from the crime of burglary only in that the act of actually entering into the building (or remaining without permission) is unsuccessful. Otherwise, the crime requires the same intent element (that is, intent to commit a felony assault or theft once inside). (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.2.)
Attempted burglary is broken into several categories, with fines and prison terms increasing according to the severity of the crime. And as mentioned above, in some cases the defendant will have to register as a sex offender in addition to applicable fines and jail or prison time.
Attempted burglary in the first degree is a class C felony and occurs when the defendant attempted to commit a burglary upon an occupied structure with one or more people present, and possessed a firearm or explosive device; or intentionally or recklessly inflicted bodily injury on any person during the attempt. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.4.)
Attempted burglary in the second degree is a class D felony and occurs when the defendant attempted to commit a burglary upon an occupied structure when no one was present in the building, while in possession of a firearm or explosive device; or when bodily injury resulted to any person.
It also includes an attempted burglary perpetrated when one or more people were present, but by a defendant who possessed no firearms or explosive devices, and no one got hurt. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.6.)
Attempted burglary in the third degree is usually an aggravated misdemeanor (but may also be a serious misdemeanor under certain circumstances), and is a “catch-all” category for circumstances that do not fall into first or second degree crimes. (Ia. Code Ann. § 713.6B.)
Similar to burglary, trespass is defined as entering or remaining on property without express permission to do so. The difference between the two crimes is that trespass does not have the intent element explained above (the second element of burglary). Instead, merely entering (or remaining unlawfully) qualifies as trespass (although trespass with intent to commit a crime incurs increased penalties, as described below). Notably, however, trespass occurs on someone else’s “property” (which can include land and is thus broader than burglary, which occurs upon entry into a building).
Examples include camping on someone else’s land without permission, or opening the gate to someone’s field and herding your cows in to graze without permission.
The crime of trespass includes some notable exemptions. For example, you may legally enter private property without individualized permission if you’re doing so for certain specified legal hunting activities. Likewise, public utilities employees engaged in their official duties are not trespassing. And it is also usually legal to retrieve your own property that has inadvertently been thrown, strayed, or blown onto someone else’s property, provided that you take the most direct and accessible route and you leave the property as quickly as possible after retrieving it. (Ia. Code Ann. § 716.7.)
It is a simple misdemeanor to trespass onto someone’s property (such as in the camping example, above). However, trespass that causes injury to another person, or damage to the property costing more than $200, is a serious misdemeanor.
Also a serious misdemeanor is trespass in order to commit a hate crime; it’s an aggravated misdemeanor if it results in any actual injury to a person or property damage in value exceeding $200.
And it is a class D felony to enter onto or remain upon public utility property without permission, although this does not include certain public rights-of-way (unless posted signs indicate no public access). (Ia. Code Ann. § 716.8.)
If you have questions about state laws on burglary, attempted burglary, or trespass, or have been charged with any of these (or related) crimes, it is important to consult a local criminal defense attorney. Each person’s circumstances is unique, and only a qualified local attorney can give you advice about how the law applies to your case.