burglary, at common law, the breaking and entering of a dwelling house of another at night with the intent to commit a felony, whether the intent is carried out or not. This definition has been generally adopted with some modifications in the criminal law of the various states of the United States. At common law burglary is primarily an offense against the security of habitation, not against the property as such, but today by statute burglary usually includes breaking into places other than dwellings. Breaking as well as entering is essential to commission of the crime; to constitute a breaking, the use of physical force is necessary and sufficient, even though the amount of force may be slight, e.g., turning a key, opening a partly closed window, pushing out a windowpane. Entry through fraud (as by posing as a guest), through threat, or through conspiracy with servants is deemed by the law equivalent to breaking and is called "constructive breaking." By statute most states do not restrict burglary to action at night, as the common law does. Burglary under common law requires that the intent be to commit a felony, but some statutes declare that the intent need only be "to commit some crime." See robbery.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.