Sometimes it seems like “familiar” crimes should be open-and-shut cases. For example, many people have a general idea of what they think burglary looks like. They may picture a thief forcing open a locked door in the dead of night and stealing something therein. However, the actual crime of burglary in Virginia is a lot broader than that.
Under Virginia statutes, if during the daytime hours you break and enter the dwelling place of another, or if during the nighttime hours you simply enter the home of another, or if you enter a non-traditional dwelling place, such as a trailer, ship or a building permanently fixed to realty and conceal yourself therein, and if in any of these situations you have the intent to commit murder, rape, robbery or arson, this is considered to be the crime of statutory burglary. Statutory burglary is a Class 3 felony. If this crime is committed with a deadly weapon, it is a Class 2 felony.
If you break and enter in a manner described in the above paragraph, but have the intention to commit larceny, assault, battery or any other felony except those listed in the above paragraph, this too is statutory burglary. If this crime is committed with a deadly weapon, it is a Class 2 felony.
As this shows, depending on the circumstances, you need not actually forcibly enter a person’s home to have committed burglary. It also doesn’t matter if you never actually completed the intended felony. Simply intending to commit the felony can lead to burglary charges. Burglary isn’t always the way it’s depicted on television or in movies. It is important not to take our understanding of the law from Hollywood, but instead to examine Virginia law, so we better understand our criminal defense options if charged with a crime.