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Decoding the Four Degrees of Burglary

Explaining the differences between first-, second-, third- and fourth-degree burglaries.

Every time we publish our weekly police blotter, we categorize crimes by type. To make sure we’re not just throwing jargon out to our readership, we’ve decided to decode burglaries for you using Maryland law and one of our contacts at the local precinct.

There are four kinds of burglaries: first-, second-, third- and fourth-degree. All are felonies except for fourth-degree, which is a misdemeanor.

First-degree burglary generally involves entering someone’s home intending to commit theft or violence. Second-degree burglary involves entering a business intending to commit theft or violence, but can also apply to auxiliary buildings like sheds that are detached from homes.

“Third-degree, for most of the time, is where there is a break-in but it can’t be determined why the person broke in,” said Lt. Stephen Doarnberger, assistant commander of Baltimore County Police . The third-degree label also may apply in cases where the break-in was not for theft, like in domestic cases.

Fourth-degree burglary generally involves taking items from homes’ and business’ fenced-in areas or areas otherwise connected to homes or businesses, Doarnberger said.

A person can be charged with fourth-degree burglary for simply being in someone’s house or business, or a yard, garden or other area connected to that home or business. Possessing burglar’s tools with intent to use them also falls into this category.

Finally, a burglary can carry an additional charge of grand theft when the theft totals $1,000 or more.

First-degree burglaries can carry a sentence up to 20 years in prison, third-degree can carry up to 10 and fourth can carry up to three. Sentencing varies for second-degree burglaries.

ralahinn1 November 29, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching a sport " Cops against Cons" and don't know all the rules. I hope more jail time is given to the bad guys though, and one day I would like to see repeat offenders have to register like sex offenders so people can know for sure when a former convict just out of jail is in their area.
Marc Shapiro (Editor) November 30, 2011 at 12:46 AM
You're welcome. I was a little shaky on some of the differences myself, so I figured this would be a good article for everyone. I would bet a lot of people would like a repeat offender registry as well. There's always Maryland case search.
Lauretta Nagel November 30, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Yes, thank you for the details - this helps clarify things a bit.

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