The average person doesn’t really understand criminal law enough to protect themselves if they end up accused of a serious offense. A surprisingly large number of people assume that criminal activity is absolutely black and white. You either stole from someone or did not steal from someone. If you didn’t take their property, you may assume the state can’t convict you of a property crime.

However, the reality is that there is a lot of gray area when it comes to criminal charges. For example, you might think that there needs to be proof that you smashed a window or picked a lock before taking something from someone’s house for the state to charge you with a burglary offense.

However, no theft actually has to occur for you to face burglary charges.

How does Washington define burglary?

Burglary is not just the theft of property or the commission of a crime inside a business or a private residence. The crime also relates to the act of illegally accessing a property. Those who force entry into a business or residence by kicking in a door, picking a lock or breaking a window could face burglary accusations.

The same is true of someone who hides in a closet after an open house or locks themselves in a storage closet at a store until everyone leaves for the night. Those discovered on someone else’s premises or videotaped illegally entering or accessing property can face burglary charges even if they do not take anything from the property. Additionally, it is possible to bring burglary charges when a crime other than theft was the reason behind the illegal entry.

Property crimes can lead to major consequences

Depending on whether or not you had a weapon in your possession at the time of your arrest and the circumstances involved, there are different classes of felony charges for burglary that come with a variety of potential penalties.

If you plead guilty to the charges against you to stay out of court even though you know you didn’t intend to commit a crime, you will not only have a permanent criminal record but could also face harsh sentencing at the discretion of the judge presiding over your case that could mean 10 years or even longer in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Fighting back when facing theft or burglary charges can help you protect your reputation and your freedom.