Indiana's Laws on Burglary, Residential Entry, and Criminal Trespass

Entering another's property without permission can result in charges for burglary, residential entry, or criminal trespass.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated November 30, 2023

Unlawful entry of another's property can result in serious charges for burglary, residential entry, and criminal trespass in Indiana. Read on to learn the differences between these crimes and their penalties.

Burglary Laws in Indiana

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." Under Indiana's law, a person who "breaks and enters" a building or structure, intending to commit a felony or theft inside, commits a burglary.

What Does It Mean to "Break and Enter"?

Despite how it sounds, "breaking and entering" does not require an actual breaking of property, like a door, window, or lock.

It's considered breaking when a person uses even the slightest bit of force to gain entry into a building without permission. For example, opening an unlocked door, raising an unlocked window, or fully pushing open a door left ajar constitutes a "breaking" under Indiana law.

Likewise, an "entry" for burglary purposes doesn't require a defendant's entire body to be physically inside the property. A person "enters" by putting oneself in a position to commit a felony or theft. This position can be reaching into a window to grab something (like a wallet) or aiming a gun through a door at its occupants. (Penman v. State, 325 N.E.2d 478 (Ind. Ct. App. 1975).)

Proving Intent to Commit a Crime

In order to convict a person of burglary, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant entered the building intending to commit a crime inside. Because defendants don't 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 someone entered a building to commit theft if they were found in an office building having pried open the door and rifling through cabinets and drawers. 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.

Burglary or Trespass Involving Dwellings

Penalties for burglary, residential entry, and criminal trespass increase when the crime involves a home or "dwelling." The definition of "dwelling" in Indiana is broader than it might sound. It includes the typical family home or apartment but also any structure or enclosed space that is a person's home or place of lodging. The structure can be permanent, temporary, movable, or fixed. So a person's dorm room, RV, tent, or houseboat can also be considered a dwelling. It's not necessary for the dwelling to be occupied at the time of the offense.

(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-31.5-2-107 (2023).)

What Are the Penalties for Burglary in Indiana?

Burglary of a building or structure is a level 5 felony, punishable by one to 6 years in prison. The penalties increase under the following circumstances:

Dwelling. Burglary of a dwelling is a level 4 felony and carries a sentence of 2 to 12 years in prison.

Bodily injury. Burglary that results in bodily injury to another is a level 3 felony and carries a sentence of 3 to 16 years in prison.

Armed or serious injury. Burglary committed while armed with a deadly weapon or that results in serious bodily injury to another is a level 2 felony and carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.

Dwelling and serious injury. Burglary of a dwelling that results in serious bodily injury to another is a level 1 felony and carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

In addition to prison time, all felonies in Indiana are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-43-2-1; 35-50-2-4 to -7 (2023).)

Residential Entry and Criminal Trespass Laws and Penalties in Indiana

The crimes of residential entry and criminal trespass involve an unlawful entry onto another's property but can be distinguished from burglary in that they do not involve intent to commit an additional crime (such as theft or assault).

Penalties for Residential Entry

A person who breaks and enters into a dwelling commits a level 6 felony offense, which is punishable by a sentence of 6 months to 2 ½ years' imprisonment. Under certain circumstances, a level 6 felony can be reduced to a class A misdemeanor. A defendant can only qualify for this alternative misdemeanor sentence once and must be conviction-free for three years. (Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-38-1-1.5; 35-43-2-1.5; 35-50-2-7 (2023).)

Penalties for Criminal Trespass

A person commits criminal trespass by entering onto property without permission from the owner. Criminal trespass occurs when a person:

  • enters onto another person's property after having been told not to do so (this includes property on which "No Trespassing" signs or purple marks are posted)
  • refuses to leave someone else's property after being asked to do so
  • accompanies another person in a vehicle knowing that person does not have permission to control the vehicle (such as a person who rides along in a car he knows is stolen)
  • interferes with another person's use or possession of property without permission (such as by putting up a fence on a neighbor's land)
  • enters a residence or agricultural operation without the owner's consent (no "breaking into" involved)
  • travels by train without the railroad company's permission
  • enters or refuses to leave property that is vacant or abandoned after being asked to leave by a police officer, pursuant to a court order, or when conspicuous signs have been posted, or
  • intentionally enters or refuses to leave the polls after being prohibited or asked to leave by a precinct election officer.

Criminal trespass is a class A misdemeanor and carries up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The penalty increases to a level 6 felony (penalty listed above), if the person:

  • has a prior conviction for trespassing on the same property
  • trespasses on a scientific research facility, public utility, or school property (including a school bus), or
  • enters an agricultural operation without permission and causes more than $750 in property damages. Causing more than $50,000 in damages results in a level 5 felony, punishable by one to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(Ind. Code Ann. §§ 35-43-2-2; 35-50-2-4 to-7; 35-50-3-2 (2023).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you are charged with burglary, residential entry, or criminal trespass in Indiana, speak with a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain the charges to you and tell you how to protect your rights. Be sure to ask your attorney about the immediate and future consequences of a conviction. A criminal record can impact your ability to get a job, housing, or loan.

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