Breaking and Entering

Breaking and entering is a criminal act of entering a residence or other enclosed property through the slightest amount of force without permission, with or without the intent to commit an offense. Breaking and entering is considered a property crime. It may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor under the laws of North Carolina and often carry severe consequences. Trespassing is also considered a property crime in North Carolina. If you have been arrested or charged with the offense of breaking and entering, trespassing or any other property crime, you should contact an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney. As your attorney we will explore ways to fight for your freedom or reduced jail time.

At Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, we can help you understand your rights in the circumstances and the options available to you. We have assisted hundreds of people just like you. Additionally we have defended numerous breaking and entering offenses, resulting in positive outcomes. Call us to speak to a qualified criminal defense lawyer today.

Breaking and Entering under North Carolina Law

Breaking and Entering is a serious offense in North Carolina and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Felony crimes usually have harsher punishments.

Misdemeanor Breaking and Entering

A person may be charged with breaking and entering as a misdemeanor if he “wrongfully breaks or enters any building”. A building is defined under North Carolina law G.S. 14-54 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.”

Breaking and Entering can involve any amount of force, even opening an unlocked door or window, to enter into a building without permission. Before a person can be found guilty of this crime, the following must be proved:

  • There was a breaking and entering
  • The breaking and entering was into a building
  • The owner or resident did not give permission to the person breaking and entering the building
  • At the time of the crime, the person acted wrongfully, that is, without any claim of right

A person who commits breaking and entering misdemeanor is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. North Carolina Statutes provide that anyone who commits a class 1 misdemeanor can receive a sentence of up to 120 days of jail time, depending on their prior convictions. If there are no prior convictions, 45 days of jail time may be imposed. It is possible for a person with prior convictions not to be sentenced to jail time at all.

Felony Breaking and Entering

For an offense to amount to felony breaking and entering, the individual must break and enter with the intent to commit a felony or theft. This crime occurs immediately upon entry into the building with illicit intent. It is still considered felony breaking and entering even if the intended theft or felony never occurs.

If an individual “breaks and enters any building with intent to terrorize or injure an occupant”, they are guilty of a Class H felony. North Carolina courts explain that “terrorizing is defined as more than just putting another in fear. It means putting a person in high degree of fear, a state of intense fright or apprehension…

Other Property Crimes

There are a number of other property crimes in North Carolina. Some are felonies while others are misdemeanor offenses. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, one or more of these offenses could also be charged.


Trespass, most of the time is a less serious than other property crimes. A person commits second degree trespass by entering or remaining on property on which “No Trespassing” signs are installed or after being told by the owner or resident not to enter. Second degree trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor. A person commits first degree trespass by entering without permission into a property that is fenced or otherwise enclosed. First degree trespassing is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

First degree trespass is punished as an A1 misdemeanor if the property is a utility company like a power station, natural gas facility, public water treatment or storage facility and the individual actually entered the building or climbed a fence. This act is severely punished if the individual intended to interrupt the operation of the facility or if the trespass put anyone at risk.

Under North Carolina law, it is also a crime for a person to enter or refuse to leave the home of a current or former spouse or domestic partner if the parties are living apart and the spouse has asked the individual to leave or not to enter. The crime is punished more severely if the individual is armed.

Breaking and entering into a place of religious worship

Breaking or entering into any place of worship with intent to commit a felony or theft is a Class G Felony. Places of worship include chapels, churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques. Any other building used and clearly identifiable as a place of worship would also qualify.

Breaking and entering into a motor vehicle

Breaking or entering into a motor vehicle is defined as unlawfully breaking into a vehicle with intent to commit a felony or larceny.

Consequences of property crimes in North Carolina

Breaking and entering is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 1 to 120 days in jail and a fine.

Breaking and entering of a place of worship is a Class G felony. Additionally, breaking and entering a building to commit a crime or cause injury or terror is a Class H felony punishable by up to 39 months imprisonment.

In North Carolina, a person who has prior convictions for any breaking and entering offense in addition to present convictions of the same crime may be charged with habitual breaking and entering.

Trespass may be a Class A1, 2, 3 misdemeanor or a Class H felony depending on the circumstances.

  • Class A1 misdemeanor – 150 days in jail and a fine.
  • Class 2 misdemeanor – 60 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
  • Class 3 misdemeanor – 20 days in jail and $200 fine.

Contact the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC for help

Property crimes in North Carolina are very serious offenses and conviction can result in several unpleasant consequences. However, the experienced criminal defense attorney at Stowe Law Firm can help.

When charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney who has compassion for your individual situation. Stowe Law Firm understands how unpleasant these events can be. We are here to help. We will fight passionately for your freedom, advocate for your rights, and ensure you’re treated fairly. Contact us today for a consultation.

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Ryan Stowe is the principal attorney at Stowe Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Stowe is proud to be practicing in his hometown of Salisbury, NC, and is a first generation Rowan County attorney. Mr. Stowe takes pride in being a criminal defense attorney. He focuse…

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