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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

The differences between burglary and breaking and entering

On Behalf of | May 22, 2020 | criminal defense

Confusion over the distinction between burglary and breaking and entering is understandable; each state has its own definitions that may not match up with others. In North Carolina, these two terms fall under the classification of property crimes.

However, they refer to two different criminal offenses, and the penalties for each may be quite different.

Breaking and entering buildings

If someone breaks or enters a building but does not do any damage, he or she has committed a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could result in up to 45 days in jail. On the other hand, it is a Class H felony if someone enters the same building intending to steal, injure or terrorize someone in the building or commit a felony. In this case, someone could spend six months in jail.

The type of building makes a difference in the level of offense. Any dwelling counts as a building, whether someone lives there or not. If the design or purpose of the structure includes securing property or activity, then it also qualifies as a Class H felony. However, if the building is a church or other place of religious worship, it is a Class G felony. This could result in up to 13 months of incarceration if the person has no prior criminal record.


Burglary involves breaking into a home with the intention of committing a crime. The state divides burglary into two categories differentiated by whether someone is present in the home when someone enters it illegally. If no one is at home when the person enters the residence, then the offense is second-degree burglary. This is a Class G felony and could result in a sentence of up to 31 months for a first-time offender. The crime becomes first-degree burglary if someone is home, and this Class D felony conviction may come with as many as 80 months in prison.