Breaking or Entering a Building - Felony

1. What is Breaking or Entering a Building?

Breaking or Entering Breaking or Entering a building in North Carolina is a felony offense. Criminal lawyers in Durham may also refer to it as “B&E” or “breaking and entering.”

N.C.G.S. 14-54 defines Breaking or Entering as entering or breaking into a building, without the consent of the owner or tenant, with the intent to commit a felony once inside the building.

As such, it is a specific intent crime.

Burglary is a Common Law offense in North Carolina and is distinct from the statutory offense of Breaking or Entering.

The accused (the person facing criminal charges in North Carolina) has not duty to present evidence or even a defense to the charges.

The Burden of Proof rests solely upon the State and the Office of the District Attorney.

The Assistant District Attorney assigned to prosecute (the “ADA”) must present sufficient evidence to prove the prima facie or “essential elements” of the crime of Breaking or Entering.

The standard of proof for a Indictment or “True Bill of Indictment” is lower, as it involves only the finding of Probable Cause to merit prosecution.

Essential elements of the crime include things like:

  • The Defendant entered into or broke into
  • A building
  • Without permission, lawful purpose, or consent
  • With the mens rea (evil mind) or intent to commit a felony inside the building

“Breaking” does not require damage or breaking a door, window, or anything in order to gain access.

While it may indeed include smashing-in a window or door, the simple removal of barriers that have been erected to prevent entry may also serve as a “breaking” under the NC criminal laws.

The actual or threatened use of force, as well as criminal schemes, fraud, or trick, may also constitute a “breaking” in certain factual scenarios.

"Entering into” or “Entry of a Building” may be slight or only partial. The Defendant need not gain full access to the building or commit a felony inside.

In enacting N.C.G.S. 14-54, the General Assembly intended to be inclusive in defining “buildings” or a “building”:

  1. Residences
  2. Condominiums
  3. Dwellings
  4. Outhouses/Outer Buildings
  5. Sheds
  6. Garages
  7. Uninhabited Homes/Houses
  8. Structures erected to store items, keep property safe, and/or to keep others out
2. Additional Topics of Interest3. Common Legal Defenses to Felony Breaking or Entering Building

The legal basis for bringing any felony or misdemeanor charge in Durham depends on the unique facts and circumstances of the offense.

If you have been arrested in Durham and have questions, Cole Williams is available for consultation.

If law enforcement, detectives, “loss prevention” or anyone wants to speak with you, politely decline to answer questions, provide a statement, or cooperate in any way with the investigation.

NOTE: Miranda Warnings are not always required in every instance and may be limited to custodial interrogations. Voluntary statements are not subject to the 5th Amendment protections afforded under the US Constitution.

Defenses to Breaking or Entering may include:

  1. Legal Authority to enter the premises
    1. Emergency
    2. Permission or Consent
    3. Legal Authority or Purpose
  2. Lack of Intent to Commit a Felony
    1. Absent “evil mind” or mens rea
  3. Mistake
  4. Duress
  5. Necessity
4. Punishments for Breaking or Entering a Building

B&E is a felony offense (Class H).

The NC Felony Punishment chart allows for a maximum period of incarceration of thirty-nine months (Class H Felonies) in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Prior to sentencing felony charges in North Carolina, the Prior Record Level (PRL) of the Defendant must be determined.

The State bears the Burden of Proof to provide evidence of prior convictions and any factors in aggravation Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

The Defendant bears the Burden of Proof, if convicted, to prove Factors in Mitigation by the legal standard known as By the Greater Weight of the Evidence / By a Preponderance of Evidence.

Possible punishments may include things such as:

  • Court Costs
  • Prison
  • Repayment to the Victim (Restitution)
  • Fines
  • Fees:
    • Community Service
    • Probation
5. Durham Criminal Defense Lawyer Cole Williams

Breaking or Entering a Building Crimes of theft, dishonestly, or moral turpitude, if convicted, can carry long term detrimental consequences.

We strongly recommend you take immediate action. Protect your legal rights. Consult with a Durham Criminal Lawyer about the specific aspects of your case.

Take the Fifth if asked to give a statement or participate in a criminal investigation. Politely decline to comment. Request legal representation and/or the chance to speak with an defense attorney.

Exercise your 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent. It helps to seek and obtain legal advice before criminal process is instituted.

Matters discuss with our law firm are confidential and subject to attorney-client privilege.


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