Burglary: Definition, Degrees & Statistics

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  • 0:03 Burglary
  • 0:29 Degrees of Burglary
  • 2:15 Burglary Statistics
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn the definition of burglary, examine the various degrees of this crime and look at some recent burglary statistics. At the conclusion of the lesson, you'll have a thorough understanding of what constitutes burglary.


Just turn on the news each night and, unfortunately, you will likely hear of a burglary in a nearby area of your county. While statistics show that burglaries are in fact decreasing, they are nevertheless still present in today's world. Burglary, also known as breaking and entering, is defined as using force to illegally enter into a structure for the purpose of stealing or committing some other crime.

Degrees of Burglary

It's important to first note that every state has a different criminal statute that defines burglary a certain way and breaks the crime of burglary down into different degrees. For example, some states only consider it burglary if someone breaks and enters during the nighttime hours; these states refer to daytime breaking and entering as 'housebreaking.' The degrees of burglary vary by the severity of the crime, with the first degree being the most severe. There are usually up to four degrees of burglary in state criminal law codes, although some states may have fewer degrees.

Usually, a first degree burglary involves breaking and entering a dwelling or residence with the intention to steal or to commit a violent crime. Burglary in the first degree is almost always a felony crime and therefore carries prison time and fines as a sentence. An example of burglary in the first degree would be breaking and entering into another person's home with the intent to commit murder.

Second degree burglary involves similar circumstances as first degree burglary. However, the burglary is typically performed at a different, non-residential type of property, such as a retail location or a warehouse. Alternatively, the burglary could be done in order to commit another type of crime, such as arson. The sentence for second degree burglary generally also involves prison time and fines.

Third degree and fourth degree burglaries are less severe crimes comparatively. These two types of burglaries usually involve breaking and entering with the intention of committing a non-violent crime. For example, the crime could be to commit vandalism or to steal something, but not harm anyone inside. Therefore, the penalty for the crime is less severe than first or second degree burglary. For instance, one may serve less than five years for committing a third or fourth degree burglary crime.

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