What is the Law on Burglary in West Virginia, and what are the Punishments for it?
Burglary is the criminal offense of unlawful entry into a premise with the intent to commit a crime. In most jurisdictions, the nature of the intended crime is irrelevant, i.e. even unauthorized entry with an intended misdemeanor can result in conviction of the felony of burglary. Across all states of the US, Burglary is identified as a severe crime, and West Virginia is no different.
Unlike many other States, West Virginia follows some distinct interpretations, which are enumerated below:
- The State restricts burglary to unauthorized entry in a home, i.e. a place of inhabitation, irrespective of it being occupied at the time of the crime. Thus, the said premise refers to any residential building, self-propelled motor home, and modular home, trailer house or motor home and does not recognize any inhabited space which is not permitted or designed for human habitation. Hence, an unlawful entry in vehicles such as a passenger car is not a burglary, even if a person lives in it.
- While some States have derecognized the act of forced entry as a necessary attribute to the offense of burglary, in West Virginia an act of breaking in or forced entry maybe unquestionably seen as sufficient cause to prosecute for burglary, even if the intent of the intruder was merely an inquiry.
- West Virginia deems burglary as a crime against property and not against a person. If the element of the crime against a person is involved, the offense is charged under provisions for robbery or aggravated robbery in place of or in addition to burglary.
The relevant codified Law for Burglary as stated in the West Virginia (WV) Code is Article 3 of Chapter 61. It declares burglary as a felony wherein irrespective of the use of force, a person enters a dwelling house or an outhouse adjoining the dwelling house with the intent to violate criminal laws of the State.
The punishment for burglary as stated in the aforesaid statute declares imprisonment of 1-15 years in a state correctional facility.
It is pertinent to note that in West Virginia, only the intrusion of property is defined in burglary and there is no mention of inhabitant, occupant or owner of the dwelling house.
This implies that burglary is a crime against property. Explicit mention of intended crime against inhabitant, occupant or owner of the dwelling house is made in the statutes for robbery and aggravated robbery, thus distinguishing the two felonies.
WV Code 61-2-12 identifies robbery as the criminal offense wherein:
- The perpetrator uses violence, threat to use violence with or without a deadly weapon, impose fear of bodily injury to the victim, temporarily disables the victim or other felonious means to take anything of value from the victim.
- Whether the said thing of value is in possession of the victim or under the care, management, and authority of the victim and acquired at the behest of the victim.
The criminal offense of robbery invites a conviction in the first degree with imprisonment of 10 to 25 years.
Hence, burglary only involves unlawful entry of a dwelling house with the intent to commit a crime, but if the intended crime poses an imminent danger to the inhabitant or occupant of the house then it is classified as a robbery. In case anything of value is not taken by the intruder, it is attempted robbery.
It is pertinent to note that the commission of the intended crime recognized as the cause of burglary, is prosecuted as a separate criminal offense which may or may not be heard in the same hearing.