New Jersey Court Explains Sufficient Proof of Criminal Intent in Burglary Cases

Burglary is a unique crime in that it not only involves the unlawful entry into the property of another; it also requires the intent to commit a crime after illegally accessing the premises. Thus, if the prosecution cannot prove that both elements of the offense are present, a jury should not convict a defendant charged with burglary. The proof needed to demonstrate criminal intent in a burglary case was the topic of a recent New Jersey opinion in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction. If you are charged with burglary or any other crime, it is advisable to confer with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney promptly to discuss your rights.

The Underlying Crime

It is reported that the defendant and another individual went to the victim’s home. The defendant sat on the victim’s back porch, where he could see the bedroom of the victim’s 10-year-old daughter. Six months later, the defendant visited the victim’s house on a bicycle. Later that day, he ran into the victim and her daughter at a store and stared at the daughter.

Allegedly, the following day the daughter heard someone enter her bedroom window. She turned on her light and then turned it back off and pretended to be asleep. She then heard someone unscrew the lightbulb from her lamp and crawl into the corner of the room, at which point she stated, “I know you are still in here.” He left the room but quickly returned, and the daughter saw that it was the defendant. He was ultimately charged with and convicted of burglary. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict.

Proof of a Criminal Intent in Burglary Cases

If a defendant files a motion for a directed verdict in a burglary case, it must be denied if the State’s evidence, when viewed in its entirety, could lead a reasonable jury to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense.

New Jersey’s Burglary statute requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a person unlawfully entered a premises with the purpose of committing a crime. In burglary cases, the State can establish that the evidence is sufficient to show a defendant intended to commit a crime solely on the circumstances surrounding the offense. This is true even if the precise crime the defendant intended to commit is unclear.

In the subject case, the court noted that given the manner of entry and time in which it occurred, the jury could extrapolate the defendant’s State of mind, which was sufficient to sustain a burglary conviction.

Confer with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

If the prosecution cannot demonstrate every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, it should not be able to obtain a conviction. If you are facing burglary charges in New Jersey, it is prudent to speak to an attorney regarding your possible defenses. The skilled criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are dedicated to helping people charged with crimes fight to protect their rights, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We can be reached via our form online or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.

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