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Elements of burglary in Colorado

In Colorado, prosecutors must prove a number of elements in order to secure a burglary conviction. The absence of any one of the elements means the crime of burglary has not occurred. The Colorado burglary law is similar to the Model Penal Code in that it requires proof of unlawful entry into a building or other occupied structure with criminal intent. Examining the parts of the definition reveals the elements that must be proved.

The first element is unlawful entry. Note that breaking into the building is not required; it is sufficient to satisfy this element that a person has entered without authorization, even through an open door. Indeed, it is sufficient under Colorado burglary law that a person remained in the structure unlawfully, even if the initial entry was lawful.

The second element of burglary is that the unlawful entry was into a building or other occupied structure. Houses, office buildings, stores, garages and sheds generally qualify. Additionally, breaking into a vault or cash register or other apparatus may be sufficient for a third degree burglary charge, even though it cannot be occupied.

The third element is intent to commit a crime. The crime most often intended is theft, but intent to commit any crime against person or property is generally sufficient to support a burglary charge. Whether criminal intent was formed before or after entry may be relevant to the degree of the charge.

Other factors may bear on the circumstances of a particular case. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help a person who faces burglary or other criminal charges by attempting to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors or by arguing that one or more of the elements of the crime is not satisfied. If the prosecution fails to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant may be found not guilty.

Source: Findlaw, "Burglary Overview", September 01, 2014

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