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The National Trial Lawyers
Greater Lowell Bar Association

Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering is a serious crime that carries the possibility of a state prison sentence upon conviction.

Elements of Breaking and Entering

In order to convict a defendant of breaking and entering, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant broke into a building, vessel, ship, or vehicle that belonged to another person;
  2. The defendant entered the building, vessel, ship, or vehicle; and
  3. The defendant intended to commit a crime.

The potential penalties for breaking and entering depend upon whether the alleged crime occurred during the day or the nighttime and whether the defendant allegedly intended to commit a felony or a misdemeanor.

Breaking is defined as exerting some physical force, even if the force is slight, and removing an obstruction by such force to gain entry. Obvious examples include breaking a window, prying open a door, or removing a plank from a wall. Less obvious examples include opening a closed door or window, even if they are unlocked. Going in through an open window that is not intended for use as an entrance is also a breaking, but going through an unobstructed entrance – such as an open door – is not.

Entering occurs if any part of the body – even a hand or foot – or any instrument or weapon controlled by the defendant physically enters the building, vessel, ship, or vehicle.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

Breaking and entering cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Identification – Because most people charged with breaking and entering do not want to be seen, identification is often an issue at trial. Attorney Spring will file pretrial motions to compel the alleged victim or witness to re-identify the defendant while he or she is sitting in a crowded courtroom.
  • Motions to Suppress – When the police are called to investigate a house break or a car break, they typically radio a description of the suspect to all patrolmen in the area.  People fitting the description are stopped by the police and often handcuffed.  The witness to the crime will then be driven to the detained suspect to confirm that the police have stopped the correct person.  With the suspect standing alone, handcuffed, and surrounded by police officers, the identification is often a foregone conclusion.  Attorney Spring will file motions to suppress the identification in these situations and argue that the unduly suggestive identification procedure cannot be trusted as accurate.
  • Bias and Motive to Lie – If the alleged victim knows the defendant, bias is almost always a live issue at trial.  Whether the defendant allegedly broke into the home or business of a former employer, a former spouse, or another family member, any bad feelings between the parties may create an incentive for the alleged victim to lie.  Attorney Spring will fully examine any bias or motive to lie during his cross-examination of the alleged victim.

Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for breaking and entering, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Spring prosecuted these cases earlier in his career when he served as an assistant district attorney and as a defense attorney, he has successfully defended hundreds of individuals charged with breaking and entering.


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