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A common question that arises is what determines a charge of breaking and entering?  And is often followed up by the question – What offences are similar to that? Before answering these, it’s worth looking at what breaking and entering actually is in Canadian law.

Breaking and entering is when you trespass or attempt to trespass on private property with the intent to commit an indictable, or serious, offense. Typically, this is where you break into a retailer or private home to steal property, but can also include breaking into a vehicle such as a trailer or a pen that holds fur-bearing animals for breeding or commercial purposes. The evidence in these cases is usually circumstantial, so Crown prosecutors will try to establish your identity and guilt as the person who committed the crime by being found with the stolen item or items in your possession some time later.  

Breaking and entering a residential dwelling is punishable by up to life in prison. (However, some provinces have sent a benchmark on breaking and entering at three years.) If you break and enter a premise other than a residential home, you can get up to 10 years in jail as an indictable offence and six month on a less serious summary offence.

However, other mitigating factors determine the sentencing for a break and enter. If the offence is not serious – that it, it was a single incident, the value of what was stolen was minimal and the property was recovered, the Crown will still seek incarceration time but ultimately your sentence is up to the judge.  On the other hand, if there were multiple incidents, then facing jail time might be more likely.

What Is a Home Invasion?

A home invasion is not a crime, however it is an aggravating factor on sentencing for an B & E.   To be considered a home invasion, a person will have broken into a home knowing that there were people present inside the house, or were completely reckless about the possibility of people inside, and were prepared to use force against them with violence or the threat of violence. In some cases, a weapon such as a gun or knife will have been used.  

In a home invasion, robbery might not be the end game. Crimes committed in the home may include other violent offences, such as assault, sexual assault or unlawful confinement. Penalties for a home invasion vary from province to province and tend to be significant.

Other Forms of Break and Enter

A much less frequent form of a break and enter is when you go onto private property to confront someone with the intent to assault them or threaten them with violence. Usually, you and this other person will have known each other, and the break and enter has arisen from some kind of argument. These incidents can be domestic in nature (such as between an estranged husband and wife).

Forcible entry is another type of break and enter. In forcible entry, you will have entered another property, perhaps as a landlord, that is the possession of another, perhaps someone who is a tenant, causing or likely to cause some kind of trouble, known in legal terms as a breach of the peace. It doesn’t matter if you have the right to enter that property or you intend to take possession of that property. You then take possession of that property, knowing that the person who possesses it will raise a ruckus.

If you also enter a home with the intent to commit an indictable, or serious, offence, you also may be charged with being unlawfully in a dwelling.

There are other forms of B & E too, such as breaking and entering a home to steal (or having the intent to steal) a firearm. This is considered to be a serious offence, as the maximum punishment is life in prison.

Have You Been Charged with a form of Break and Enter?

If you’ve been charged with breaking and entering or a related offence, contact Armoured Suits by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] for a free 30-min confidential consultation.