Breaking and Entering Crimes in North Carolina: Charges, Penalties, and Defenses

Entering another person’s property without permission is a serious crime in North Carolina. “Breaking and entering” crimes are either misdemeanor or felony crimes, depending on the nature of the offense. Here, we provide a brief overview of the various breaking and entering charges in the state and discuss how a North Carolina criminal defense attorney can assist you if you have been charged with breaking and entering.

Misdemeanor Breaking and Entering

Breaking and entering crimes are defined in §14-54 of the North Carolina General Statutes. If a person wrongfully breaks into or enters any building, it is defined as a Class 1 misdemeanor. A “building” is defined as “any dwelling, dwelling house, uninhabited house, building under construction, building within the curtilage of a dwelling house, and any other structure designed to house or secure within it any activity or property.”

A class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine. For a person’s first conviction, the punishment will be no more than forty-five days of community punishment; however, if it is not a person’s first conviction, they will very likely face jail time.

Felony Breaking and Entering

If a person wrongfully breaks or enters any building with the intent to either (1) commit any felony or larceny therein or (2) terrorize or injure an occupant of the building, he will be guilty of a Class H felony.

The difference between a misdemeanor and felony charge is what the person intends to do once inside the building. For example, if a person enters a building to seek shelter, that would be a misdemeanor. If he enters the same building to steal a fridge or threaten a person inside, that would result in a felony charge.

Class H felonies are punishable by four to twenty-five months in jail or prison.

Felony Breaking and Entering a Place of Religious Worship

Under §14-54.1 of the North Carolina General Statutes, breaking or entering a place of religious worship, such as a church, temple, mosque, or other building regularly used as a place of religious worship, is a Class G felony.

Class G felonies are punishable by eight to thirty-one months in jail or prison.

Felony Breaking and Entering a Motor Vehicle

Lastly, under §14-56 of the North Carolina General Statutes, breaking or entering a motor vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or larceny therein is a Class I felony. There is an exception to this law for breaking or entering a vehicle to assist a person inside or give emergency medical care.

Class I felonies are punishable by three to twelve months, which may be served as community punishment instead of jail for a person’s first conviction.

Contact Our Offices Today to Discuss Your Defense

Whether a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or felony depends not just on whether a defendant unlawfully entered a building or vehicle, but also on the defendant’s intent once inside that building. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony breaking and entering crime, contact Cotten Law. Jeremy has represented tens of thousands of clients and has hundreds of stellar reviews online. Our offices serve clients in central North Carolina including Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties.

Give our office a call or click over to our main page to chat live with an assistant 24 hours a day.