Connecticut has laws against burglary (entering into a building in order to commit a crime inside), home invasion (a very serious offense that involves burglarizing someone’s home and committing a felony or using a weapon), and trespass (a much less serious crime, committed by going onto someone else’s property without permission). For more information on these crimes, see Home Invasions, Burglary: Penalties and Sentencing, and Trespassing Penalties. 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, almost all states, including Connecticut, have loosened these requirements – at least in some instances –and a person commits burglary by entering a building without permission with the intent to commit a crime inside. However, some of these traditional requirements now serve as aggravating factors that make a particular burglary a more serious crime, punishable by a longer prison term.
Home invasion is the most serious burglary offense in Connecticut. A person commits this crime by entering an occupied dwelling with the intent to commit a crime when:
A dwelling is a place where a person normally sleeps at night, so it could be a house, an apartment, a dorm room, or even a houseboat. If thugs break into a house intending to assault the occupants, and either actually commit assault some other felony or are armed, then the crime is home invasion. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § § 53a-100, 53a-100aa.)
Other burglaries are designated first, second, or third degree burglaries (from most to least serious). Burglary is punished more severely (as first degree burglary) when:
For example, an armed break-in of a store would be first degree burglary. Burglary is also punished more severely, as second degree burglary, if the building is occupied by anyone other than the burglar. So, an unarmed break-in of an occupied store would be second degree burglary. When none of these aggravating factors are present (that the building is a dwelling or is occupied, that the defendant is armed or causes injury), then entering into any building without permission with the intent to commit a crime inside is third degree burglary. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § § 53a-101, 53a-102, 53a-103.)
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 is hard to prove exactly what a defendant is thinking. For example, if a defendant goes into a an apartment, assaults the occupant and knocks her out, and then she finds that her wallet and jewelry are missing, the jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant entered into the apartment intending to commit theft or assault.
The crime of burglary occurs as soon as the defendant enters into the building or vehicle with the illicit intent, even if the intended felony or theft never occurs.
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. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-106.)
For more information on how even everyday items can become burglar’s tools, see Burglary Tools.
A person commits simple trespass by entering property without permission from the owner. In Connecticut, trespass is punished more severely, as criminal trespass, if:
For example, going to a public park after the park is closed is criminal trespass, because people are not allowed in the park after it closes. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § § 53a-107, 53a-108, 53a-109, 53a-110a.)
It is a defense to a charge of burglary that the building was abandoned. So, a person who goes into an abandoned building and steals copper pipes could be convicted of theft, but not burglary. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-104.) Abandonment is also a defense to a charge of trespassing into a building. It is also 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-110.)
Home invasion is a class A felony, punishable by ten to 50 years’ or 25 years' to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000, and the defendant must serve at least ten years in prison. Burglary in the first degree is a class B felony, punishable by one to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Burglary in the second degree is a class C felony, punishable by one to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Burglary in the third degree is a class D felony, punishable by a state prison term of one to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. Possession or manufacture of burglar’s tools is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Simple trespass is an infraction. Simple infractions are punishable only by a fine and do not carry the possibility of jail time. But criminal trespass is more serious, punishable by as much as 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,000. For more information on sentencing, see Connecticut Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Connecticut Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
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.