Burglary and Home Invasions in Connecticut

While we traditionally think of burglary as breaking into a home at night intending to commit a felony, the actual definition of burglary is much broader. Learn what constitutes home invasion, burglary, and criminal trespass in Connecticut.

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.

Burglary and Home Invasion

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.

Definitions

The following definitions apply to burglary-related crimes.

  • Building includes its ordinary meaning (as a structure), plus any watercraft, aircraft, trailer, railroad car, vehicle, or structure that can be occupied. Buildings include dwellings.
  • Dwelling means a building used for lodging purposes, even if a person is not present. In addition to the typical family home or apartment, a dwelling could include motel rooms, dorm rooms, RVs, and houseboats.
  • At night is the period between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.

Home Invasion

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:

  • the defendant or a co-defendant commits or attempts to commit a felony against a person present in the home (such as assault), or
  • the defendant is physically armed with explosives, a deadly weapon (even a BB gun counts), or an object the could be used to cause injury (such as a tire iron).

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).)

Burglary

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:

  • is armed with explosives, a deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument, or
  • intentionally or recklessly injures or attempts to injure someone.

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).)

Burglary Tools

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).)

Enhanced Penalties

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

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:

  • on property after being ordered to leave or not enter
  • on property in violation of a restraining order
  • in a building, on public land, within a fenced or enclosed property, or on property where “No Trespassing” signs are posted, or
  • on land for the purpose of hunting, trapping, or fishing.

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).)

Defenses

It is a defense to a charge of burglary that the building was abandoned. A person who goes into an abandoned building and steals copper could be charged with theft but not burglary in Connecticut.

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).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

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.

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