Burglary charges in New Jersey are governed by N.J.S. 2C:18-2 which provides in pertinent part:
§ 2C:18-2. Burglary
a. Burglary defined. A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an offense therein 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; or
(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.
b. Grading. Burglary is a crime of the second degree if in the course of committing the offense, the actor:
(1) Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone; or
(2) Is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon.
Otherwise burglary is a crime of the third degree. An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing” an offense if it occurs in an attempt to commit an offense or in immediate flight after the attempt or commission.
Typically, burglary is a third degree crime in New Jersey which results in between three (3) and five (5) years in state prison if convicted. However, third degree offenses do not have a “presumption of incarceration” so a probationary sentence is possible as well as potential diversion into the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program.
In order to prove burglary in New Jersey, the State must show that the defendant entered the structure “with purpose to commit an offense therein”. Notice the statute does not require breaking into a structure, but merely entering it. The State must also show that, at the time the individual entered the structure, he or she planned on committing a crime. This can be any variety of theft, assault, or fraud offense. As long as the defendant entered the structure with the purpose of committing a crime inside, the elements of burglary are met in New Jersey.
Moreover, the structure does not have to be a home. Most people think of burglary as only breaking into a home to steal. This is not always the case. I recently represented a client in Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, New Jersey who was charged with burglary for opening a car in a parking lot and stealing a credit card from inside the vehicle. Note, he did not break into the car, the door was unlocked. However, opening the car door and stealing a credit card from inside the car since he planned on doing so upon opening the car door was sufficient to meet the requirements of burglary.