Burglary and Criminal Trespass in Minnesota

The basics of Minnesota's burglary and trespassing laws.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 30, 2024

Minnesota protects people and their property from intruders with the state's laws prohibiting burglary and trespassing.

What Is a Burglary Crime in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, a person commits burglary by:

  • entering a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime, or
  • entering a building without consent and committing a crime inside.

Penalties for burglary increase along with the risk of harm to persons and property.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.581, 609.582 (2024).)

Understanding How Prosecutors Prove Burglary Charges in Minnesota

Burglary charges encompass more scenarios than one might think. Just lifting an open window hoping to steal something can be burglary. Below we highlight how the burglary laws work and when charges can be brought.

Is Breaking and Entering Required for Burglary Charges?

Traditionally, the crime of burglary involved "breaking and entering," but the requirement of "breaking" no longer exists. A person does not need to enter by force or even pick a lock to commit burglary. Pushing open a slightly ajar door can constitute an unlawful entry. But entry by force in certain instances can result in harsher penalties. (Check out the penalties for second-degree burglary, below.)

What Is an Unlawful Entry for Burglary?

Minnesota's burglary law sets out three types of unlawful entries:

  • entering a building without permission
  • entering a building through false pretenses (such as lying about being a repair person), or
  • remaining in the building after the owner has withdrawn consent for the person to be there.

An example of this last provision might occur when a party host asks an invited guest to leave but the guest refuses to do so. The guest's refusal will be considered a trespass (more on this below)—unless the guest remains there to commit a crime, in which case, it becomes a burglary.

What Types of Buildings Can Be Burglarized?

Minnesota's burglary laws apply to "buildings," which means any structure suitable for providing shelter to people. This could be a garage, store, office building, barn, or a home (called a dwelling). Courts have also decided that a mini-storage unit, an ice arena, and a warehouse were "buildings" for purposes of the burglary statute.

Harsher penalties apply when the building is a dwelling. To be considered a "dwelling," the building must be used as a permanent or temporary residence. A dwelling can include not only a residential home or apartment but also a motel room, motor home (RV), houseboat, or ice-fishing house.

Is It Still Burglary If No Crime Was Committed?

Yes, it can be. Not all burglary suspects complete or even attempt their intended crime. But that doesn't mean they won't face burglary charges. Prosecutors can still bring charges based on the suspect's intent to commit a crime. This requires proving the defendant's state of mind.

Short of a confession, prosecutors generally rely on circumstantial evidence to prove intent. For instance, if a suspect is caught rifling through drawers and closets in another person's house, the prosecutor could argue these actions are consistent with stealing. The prosecutor could also point to tools a suspect had with them, such as a crowbar, screwdriver, duct tape, or other items that could be used to break into a building or harm someone.

While many associated burglary with the crime of theft, intent to commit any crime suffices for burglary charges. A suspect might unlawfully enter a building to commit a sexual assault, assault, or vandalism, or to terrorize someone.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.581, 609.582 (2024).)

Is Burglary a Felony in Minnesota?

Minnesota divides burglary offenses into four degrees. Burglary in the first, second, and third degrees are felonies. Only fourth-degree burglary carries gross misdemeanor penalties. The penalties for burglary can range from up to a year in jail to 20 years of prison time.

What Are the Penalties for First-Degree Burglary in Minnesota?

The harshest penalties apply to first-degree burglary offenses in Minnesota. A person commits burglary in the first degree when the crime involves:

  • entry into a dwelling that is or becomes occupied at any time the burglar is inside the dwelling
  • possession of a dangerous weapon, explosive, or any item used to make the victim believe it's a weapon, or
  • assault on someone in the building or connected property.

First-degree burglary carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $35,000, or both. A person who commits first-degree burglary of an occupied dwelling must be incarcerated for at least six months.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.582, 609.583 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Second-Degree Burglary in Minnesota?

Burglary in the second degree includes burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and burglary while in possession of burglary tools. It's also second-degree burglary to:

  • enter a bank or securities building using force or threat of force
  • forcibly enter a pharmacy or other building where controlled substances (drugs) are routinely kept or stored, or
  • enter a government building, religious establishment, historic property, or school building, and steal or damage property or intend to do so.

Penalties include up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.582 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Third-Degree Burglary in Minnesota?

Burglary in the third degree involves unauthorized entry into a building (under circumstances not listed above) when the defendant commits or intends to commit theft, a felony, or a gross misdemeanor.

It's also third-degree burglary to enter a building that's open to the public (other than a government building, religious establishment, historic property, or school) and commit or intend to commit theft, when the person has a history of theft-related convictions and was already told not to return to that building.

A person convicted of third-degree burglary faces up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.582 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Fourth-Degree Burglary in Minnesota?

Any other burglary is a gross misdemeanor offense. This includes:

  • a person who enters a building without permission and commits or intends to commit a misdemeanor (other than theft), or
  • a person who enters a building that's open to the public (other than a government building, religious establishment, historic property, or school) and commits or intends to commit theft.

A person convicted of fourth-degree burglary faces up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.582 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Possession of Burglary or Theft Tools in Minnesota?

It's also illegal to possess tools with the intent to use them (or permit another to use them) in a burglary or theft. Burglary and theft tools can include items such as a crowbar, bolt cutters, or explosives. A person convicted of possession of burglary tools faces up to three years in prison and a fine of $5,000. (Actual use of the tools in a burglary constitutes second-degree burglary.)

(Minn. Stat. § 609.59 (2024).)

What Is Criminal Trespass in Minnesota? What Are the Penalties?

When there's an unlawful entry but no intended crime, a prosecutor may bring trespass charges (rather than burglary charges).

Trespass includes intentionally entering onto the premises of another without lawful permission. The term "premises" is broad and includes buildings, real property, land, and structures.

Several activities qualify as trespass, such as:

  • refusing to leave another's property upon being told to leave
  • entering a dwelling, locked building, or school without permission
  • crossing into or entering any area lawfully cordoned off by police
  • tampering with a boundary line (such as a fence), or
  • entering a construction site or mine that is locked or has "no trespassing" signs posted.

A person who commits trespass faces misdemeanor penalties of up to $1,000 in fines, up to 90 days in jail, or both.

In certain instances, the penalties increase to a gross misdemeanor. Examples include when a person trespasses on restricted agricultural land or refuses to depart when asked to leave a facility providing services to domestic violence or sex trafficking victims.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 609.033, 609.605 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with burglary or criminal trespass, consult a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal system and protect your rights. Be sure to ask your attorney about the immediate and future consequences of a criminal conviction. Having a criminal record can impact your future ability to get a job, housing, or loan.

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