Burglary & Home Invasion: Definition & Differences

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to first learn about the definition of burglary and the elements involved therein. Then, we'll repeat this process for home invasion.


Jim Potti is a professional thief, burglar, robber, you name it. This guy loves to steal. Jimbo, as some of his pals like to call him, may not care about the law, nor what the legal definition of something like burglary is, however, you probably do.

So, we'll use Mr. Potti as an example throughout this lesson as we define burglary and home invasion. To be clear, the definitions of burglary and home invasion can be nuanced, especially depending on historical context and state, so this lesson provides a general look at what these two terms mean.

What is Burglary?

It was a dark and stormy night when Jimbo decided to enter the law firm of Edward, Bulwer, & Lytton. But despite the storm, Jimbo wasn't seeking shelter. No, he was breaking into the law firm in order to steal something.

When someone enters a protected structure (without the owner's permission) in order to commit a crime inside, this is known as burglary. If Jimbo was truly seeking shelter from a life-threatening storm, then entering the law firm would not have been considered burglary, and you wouldn't be able to charge him with burglary, as a result.

But because Jimbo was entering with an intent to commit a crime, that's burglary.

You prosecute Jimbo. But when you do so, Jimbo (serving as his own attorney) argues that he didn't actually steal anything and only got his foot inside the door before a calico guard cat scared him off, so it wasn't really burglary. Case dismissed, right?

After kindly reminding Jimbo that anyone who serves as his own attorney has a fool for a client, you point out three facts:

1. Burglary involves the intent to commit a crime; whether or not one actually occurred is immaterial. This means someone breaking a window of a building, before getting scared off by an alarm, may be charged with burglary.

2. The criminal intent behind burglary doesn't have to be theft. This means a person entering a building may have the intent to commit any crime, like kidnapping or violent assault, in order to qualify for a burglary charge.

3. In many cases, a burglary charge may be brought if any part of a person's body or implement enters the building. So if someone breaks a window, and reaches in with a long fork to steal a cookie, that's burglary.

Jimbo gets ten years for burglary and another ten years for serving as his own attorney.

What is Home Invasion?

With a little bit of grey on the side of his temples, Mr. Potti gets out ten years later. Unfortunately for Jimbo, his post-prison life is in some ways the best of times, the worst of times, and certainly an age of foolishness.

That's because he quickly goes back to his old ways. This time around, he doesn't mess around with entering a law firm. Bad idea to begin with, right?

So, he goes for what he thinks is a softer target. It's Mr. Dickens' home. Mr. Dickens is inside and Jimbo knows he's filthy rich.

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