New Jersey Burglary Offense

Burglary Defense Lawyers in NJ

Under New Jersey law, burglary involves entering a “structure” without permission to commit theft or another crime. A conviction carries significant penalties to discourage individuals from invading a residence, business, or another facility. Given the stakes involved in a burglary case, hiring the most skilled defense lawyer, you can find is extremely important. The attorneys at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, have the qualifications you need with:

  • Over 200 years of combined experience defending clients charged with burglary
  • Ten lawyers that specialize exclusively in criminal defense
  • Former county prosecutors that have served as Director of Major Crimes, the Drug Task Force, Special Operations, Economic Crimes, Guns Task Force, Juvenile and even an entire Trial Division
  • Certified criminal trial attorneys

If you have been arrested or indicted on burglary charges, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Our defense team is ready to assist you in this role. Call us at 877-450-8301 or fill out our online form today to explore your legal options. A lawyer with years of experience representing clients arrested for burglary is available to provide a free consultation immediately.

Introduction to Burglary

The New Jersey burglary law is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2. Subsection (a), which defines this offense, states that:

A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein or thereon he:

(1) Enters a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof unless the structure was at the time open to the public or the actor is licensed or privileged to enter;

(2) Surreptitiously remains in a research facility, structure, or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so; or

(3) Trespasses in or upon utility company property where public notice prohibiting trespass is given by conspicuous posting, or fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.

The term “structure” applies to almost any type of building, including a house, store or other commercial structure, as well as occupied portions of divided structures, such as apartments, hotel rooms, or business offices.

Although this charge is often referred to as “breaking and entering”, a burglary need not involving such a disturbance of the structure; all that is required is an entry without permission or authority or surreptitiously remaining (hiding).

Elements of Offense

There are three (3) basic elements that must be established to prove a burglary charge in New Jersey. The prosecutor must prove that:

  1. The defendant entered a structure:
  2. Without permission or a license; and
  3. For the purpose of committing an offense.

As previously stated, the entry must be to a “structure” in order for this law to apply. It should be noted in this regard that motor vehicles such as a car, truck, or mobile home fall within this definition. Burglary also applies to the entry of a boat or plane.

The second required proof is that the defendant enters the structure without permission, in other words, it must be unauthorized. Places that are open to the public generally cannot be burglarized absent some sign or design that indicates that entry is precluded.

The third and final element that must be proven to convict an individual for burglary is an intent to commit an offense in the structure.  Unlike the classic breaking and entering offense that previously existed in New Jersey, in order for someone to commit burglary, they must enter for the purpose of stealing something, damaging property, assault another, or committing some other violation of the law.



Conspirary to Commit Burglary

Burglary of Residence in NJIt is important to keep in mind that you can be convicted of burglary even though you did not actively participate in the entry of the property if you conspired to commit the offense. Someone conspires or engages in a conspiracy if they enter into an agreement with one or more individuals to commit a burglary and take an affirmative step to facilitate the crime. The classic scenario for conspiracy to commit burglary is the employee who helps c0-conspirators gain entry into the property of an employer (i.e. bank, department store, gas station, jeweler, etc.) by providing a key, alarm code or other access. A conspirator faces the same penalties as the individual(s) who entered the property.

Degree of Crime

Burglary is typically a third-degree crime. The offense is enhanced, however, to a second-degree crime where the defendant:

  • Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone; or
  • Is armed with or displays what appears to be explosives or a deadly weapon.

“Bodily injury” exists when someone suffers physical pain, illness or impairment in any way.

“Deadly weapon” is defined as a firearm or another weapon, device, instrument, material or substance capable of producing death or serious bodily injury, or that the victim could reasonably believe to be so capable.


The penalty for third degree burglary is 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Second degree burglary is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. In addition, the No Early Release Act (“NERA”) applies in this instance, making it necessary for an individual to serve at least 85% of the prison term imposed before they may be considered for parole.


Prosecutors must prove every element of New Jersey’s legal definition of burglary beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. This includes that the building, or “structure,” was not open to the public and you did not otherwise have permission or authority to enter or remain inside it. And, the prosecution must prove your purpose for being there was to commit a crime.

The attorneys at our firm will present a legal defense that challenges the prosecution at every possible turn. If the state does not have a solid case, we will promptly pursue motions to keep the prosecution from moving forward.

First, as your defense lawyers, if you are being held, we will obtain your release from custody at your first appearance or by successfully defending you at a detention hearing. Then we will meet with you to hear your side of the story, and investigate further to determine the legitimacy and strength of the state’s case.

Our investigation may reveal evidence that supports motions to dismiss or reduce charges, or creates a legal defense, such as:

  • Police misconduct, like an illegal arrest or search and seizure, or failure to advise of your Miranda rights against self-incrimination
  • “Chain of custody” issues with police or the court’s handling of evidence, such as property alleged to have been stolen or a weapon alleged to have been used
  • Racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, sexual orientation, or other bias on the part of authorities or witnesses
  • An alibi, such as your ability to establish that you were somewhere else when the incident in question allegedly occurred
  • Mistaken identity, such as occurs in faulty suspect lineups
  • Unreliable or faulty witness testimony
  • The property was open to the public at the time of the alleged burglary
  • Your genuine belief you had permission to enter the property
  • Lack of intent to commit an additional crime (beyond trespass)
  • Stress, duress, coercion, inducement by another, etc., which led to entering the premises
  • Mental impairment (for example, intoxication, illness) that precluded the ability to form and intent or purpose to commit an additional crime

Because attorneys from our firm have long-standing relationships with prosecutors across the state, we can reach out right away if there is room to negotiate for downgraded or dismissed charges.

In addition to problems with the prosecution’s case, we can sometimes get charges downgraded or dismissed for clients who have a clean record, remorse, and willingness to pay restitution, such as for property damage. The diversion programs like Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) is an option for the first offender. Drug Court is another avenue to explore for those individuals who have a lengthy prior record involving drug possession and use.

If a trial is necessary in your burglary case, the entire legal team of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is available to prepare a strong and persuasive defense.

Contact a Talented NJ Burglary Lawyer at Our Firm

If you have been arrested or face indictment for burglary anywhere in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall as soon as possible and, in the meantime, exercise your right to remain silent. Our criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and standing in the legal community to protect you from the potentially severe consequences of this theft charge, including the possibility of years in prison.

Don’t face the severe punishment and lasting harm of a guilty verdict or plea to burglary charges without the solid legal defense a firm like ours can provide. Contact us at any of our NJ law offices now for a free initial consultation to learn how we can protect you. An attorney is available immediately at 877-450-8301.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Burglary a Felony Criminal Offense?

As a general rule, a felony is any charge that triggers the potential for over 6 months of incarceration. A third or second degree crime for burglary obviously falls within this definition and is therefore considered a felony.

What Is The Difference Between Trespass and Burglary?

Although these charges are similar, burglary requires entry into a structure and also that the accused possess an intent to commit a theft (i.e. steal something) or other offense. Criminal trespass is fulfilled once someone enters the property of another without permission.

Can The Penalties for Burglary Get Worse If I Possessed A Gun?

Yes. The Graves Act applies when a burglary is committed with a firearm or where a firearm is removed from the structure. The latter falls within the Graves Act because an individual commits the offense of unlawful possession of a firearm once he/she takes the weapon from its rightful owner.

When Does A Burglary Escalate Into A Robbery?

A burglary involves theft or similar offense from a structure. Robbery occurs when someone physically takes property from another person. So burglary is transformed into a robbery whenever there is physical contact or threats made to the occupant of a structure in order to accomplish the theft.

Are Car Burglaries Treated Any Differently Under NJ Law?

No. A car or truck is considered a structure so the same penalties and consequences apply whether you break into a motor vehicle, house, or business.

How Much Time Can I Get If I Am Convicted Of Burglary?

As previously stated, a third degree crime for burglary carries up to 5 years in prison and a second degree crime for burglary results in 5-10 years in prison. You should also know that there is a presumption of imprisonment whenever someone is convicted for second degree burglary. This means that there is an extremely high probability of imprisonment when this occurs.