In Connecticut, a person who unlawfully enters or remains in a building or other premises commits the crime of burglary, home invasion, or criminal trespass. The offense and punishment depend on the defendant’s intent, the type of building or premises, and the circumstances involved. Connecticut also makes it a crime to possess or make tools used in burglaries.
Traditionally, burglary was defined as breaking and entering a home at night with the intent to commit a felony inside. Today, Connecticut (and most other states) have broadened the definition of burglary. Generally speaking, a person commits burglary by entering a building without permission and with the intent to commit a crime inside. Additional factors (including some of the traditional factors noted above) determine the offense level and punishment.
The following definitions apply to burglary-related crimes.
Home invasion is the most serious burglary offense in Connecticut and constitutes a class A felony. A person commits home invasion by entering an occupied dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, and:
A class A felony carries a penalty of ten to 25 years and a fine up to $20,000.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-100aa (2020); State v. Edwards, 156 A.3d 506 (Conn. 2017).)
Other burglaries are designated as first-, second-, or third-degree burglaries (from most to least serious).
First-degree burglary involves unlawfully entering or remaining in a dwelling at night with intent to commit a crime (similar to traditional burglary). It’s also first-degree burglary when a defendant unlawfully enters or remains in any building (including a dwelling) with intent to commit a crime and:
Summarized, first-degree burglary includes (1) burglary in a dwelling at night, and (2) burglary involving explosives, deadly weapons, or physical violence.
For instance, a person who enters someone’s home through an open window at 2 a.m. intending to steal jewelry commits first-degree burglary. Another example is someone who breaks into a shed intending to steal tools and, upon being discovered, pushes and seriously injures the victim in an attempt to flee. It would also be first-degree burglary to break into the shed while carrying a tire iron intending to steal a toolbox.
First-degree burglary is a class B felony, punishable by one to 20 years’ incarceration and a $15,000 fine.
Second-degree burglary occurs when a defendant unlawfully enters or remains in an occupied dwelling with intent to commit a crime. The offense is a class C felony and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $10,000 fine.
Third-degree burglary is a class D felony. A person commits third-degree burglary by unlawfully entering or remaining in a building (unoccupied dwelling or nonresidential building) with intent to commit a crime. A class D felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-101 to -103a (2020).)
Like most states, Connecticut has laws against possessing, making, or altering burglary tools, either intending to use the object to commit a crime or knowing that another person intends to use the object to commit a crime. A burglary tool is any instrument or device designed or commonly used to force entry into a building or break into a safe or similar item. For example, a person who manufactures master keys for car thieves could be convicted of manufacturing burglary tools. A conviction results in a class A misdemeanor with up to one year in jail. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-106 (2020).)
Armed burglary. Minimum sentences apply for armed burglary offenses. A person convicted of first-degree burglary while armed with explosives, a deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument must serve at least five years in prison. Second- and third-degree burglary involving a firearm (even the representation of having a firearm) means a minimum of one years’ imprisonment.
Persistent offender. Connecticut’s sentencing law allows enhanced sentences for any offender deemed a persistent (repeat) offender. The law contains various levels of enhancements depending on the seriousness of the present and past crimes. Generally, enhanced sentences include mandatory minimum sentences or an increase to the next sentencing level (such as bumping up a class C to a class B felony). (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-40 (2020).)
Intent to Commit a Crime
In order to convict a person of burglary, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit a crime. Usually, the prosecutor relies on the circumstances of the offense, because it’s difficult to prove exactly what a defendant was thinking. For example, say a defendant goes into an apartment, assaults the occupant, and knocks her out. When the victim comes to, she finds that her wallet and jewelry are missing. Here, the jury could likely find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant entered the apartment intending to commit theft or assault. But what if the defendant enters the apartment, sees the occupant, and decides to flee immediately before anything happens? The defendant still committed burglary by unlawfully entering the dwelling with the intent to steal.
Criminal trespass generally involves entering or remaining on someone’s property without permission and carries less severe penalties than burglary.
A person commits simple trespass by entering or remaining on property without permission. Simple trespass is an infraction and can be punished by a fine only (no jail time).
Criminal trespass occurs when the defendant, without permission, enters or remains:
Penalties for criminal trespass range from a class A to class C misdemeanor and carry sentences from three months to a year in jail.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-107, -108, -109, -110a (2020).)
Abandonment is also a defense to a charge of trespassing into a building. And it's a defense to trespassing that the land or building was open to the public (such as a store during normal business hours) or that the defendant reasonably believed that he or she had the permission to enter. (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-104, -110 (2020).)
If you are charged with home invasion, burglary, trespass, or a related crime, you should talk to a Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Any criminal conviction can have serious consequences, including time in jail or prison, fines, and a criminal record, which can make it difficult to obtain a job or pass a background check. The best way to avoid a criminal conviction is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain the charges against you and help you protect your rights.