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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-56: Breaking or Entering Into a Motor Vehicle

Breaking or entering into a motor vehicle, in violation of North Carolina Criminal Law 14-56, is defined as unlawfully breaking into a vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or larceny.

It may also be commonly referred to in the community as “Breaking and Entering” or “B&E” or “Breaking and Entering Vehicle.”

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Breaking and Entering To prove breaking or entering into a motor vehicle, the prosecutor for the State (the assistant district attorney) must be able to prove the following prima facie elements or “first facts,” Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:

  1. There was a breaking or entry by the Defendant
  2. It was a motor vehicle that was broken into and/or entered (any railroad car, motor vehicle, trailer, aircraft, boat, or other watercraft may qualify)
  3. There was something of value in the motor vehicle
  4. The owner did not consent to the breaking and entering
  5. The defendant had the intent to commit a felony or larceny therein

“Breaking” means the making of some kind of opening, however slight, in the building. It does not require breaking a window or other damage to the vehicle.

A “breaking” also need not be actual but may be by threat if force, by some trick or fraudulent representation, inducing someone to open a door or point of entry into the vehicle.

“Entering” can be accomplished by the person charged with the crime putting any part of his or her body into the vehicle (which may include a car, truck, or other type of motor vehicle), even it’s only a finger.

“Something of value” requires proof that a vehicle contained personal property of some value (e.g., vehicle registration card, papers, cigarettes, etc.).

Additionally, there must be proof of objects within the vehicle are technically separate and distinct from the functioning vehicle. For example, in North Carolina, courts have found evidence of the vehicle’s key, seats, carpeting, visors, handles, knobs, cigarette lighter and radio to not satisfy this element.

As such, the items of value must be distinct from what might be ordinarily considered part of the vehicle itself. That could include things like cell phones, purses, CD’s, and other personal items people keep within their vehicle.

“Larceny” is the taking and carrying away of the personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their personal possessions.

Being found in a vehicle unlawfully (without permission or lawful purpose) may serve as prima facie evidence that the Defendant violated North Carolina Criminal Law 14-56.

2. Examples

Defendant leans through the open door of a vehicle in order to steal a pack of cigarettes lying on the vehicle’s floor board. Defendant can be charged with felony breaking and entering a vehicle.

Defendant opens the hood of car with the intent to steal parts of the car. The hood has a locking mechanism that prevents it from being opened more than 18 inches. Defendant can be charged with breaking or entering a motor vehicle.

3. Related Legal Issues and Offenses4. Defenses to Breaking or Entering a Vehicle

As is the case for other crimes involving larceny and crimes of theft, lawful authority to enter a motor vehicle may serve as defense. The defendant in criminal charges bears no Burden of Proof or Burden of Production of Evidence.

In the event the accused had consent to enter the vehicle (permission) or other lawful authority to enter into the motor vehicle, that may serve as a valid defense to the charges.

5. Penalties

Breaking or Entering a Vehicle is a Class I felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 24 months in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections (DAC).

Class I felonies in North Carolina, pursuant to the Felony Punishment Chart, may be sentenced, depending upon the calculated Prior Record Level or “PRL” as:

  1. Community Punishment
  2. Intermediate Punishment
  3. Active Punishment

Community Punishment may include things like Probation, Costs of Court, Fines, Fees, Substance Abuse Assessment/Treatment.

Intermediate Punishment may involve imposition of a judge including, but not limited to all the same conditions of Community Punishment, plus some type of enhanced penalty such as a “special term of condition” involving a “split sentence” or period of incarceration, Electronic Monitoring (EM), Eletronic House Arrest (EHA), and Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) or “CAM.”

6. Criminal Defense for Dispensing of a Controlled Substance Cases

Breaking or Entering a Motor Vehicle Crimes of theft, dishonesty or “moral turpitude” may carry consequences lasting longer than an active prison term or even probation. A felony or misdemeanor conviction of any type of larceny charge can make it difficult to find a good job or even suitable housing.

If you have been charged with felony breaking or entering a motor vehicle, please contact our North Carolina criminal attorneys. We provide a complementary consultation on all criminal charges in North Carolina.

Our law firm provides legal representation to people in Charlotte, Monroe, Salisbury, Statesville, Gastonia and the judicial districts in the surrounding counties of Mecklenburg, Union, Rowan, Iredell, and Gaston.

Charlotte criminal defense attorney Bill Powers has more than 27 years practical courtroom experience helping people with a wide range of legal matters. He is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist as recognized by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) / National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC).

He is also a former President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and well-regarded legal advocate.

It’s important, if not imperative, to begin your defense without delay. We recommend you exercise your Constitutional Rights to Remain Silent (under the 5th Amendment) and Right to an Attorney.

Politely advise any law enforcement official you do not wish to answer questions or cooperate with an investigation. In fact, you should also ask, “Am I under arrest? May I leave?” Offer nothing more. Answer no questions. Respond to no inquiries. Do not consent to a search.

You cannot be punished for exercising your Constitutional Rights. Despite what police officers may tell you, the Judge will not “get mad” if you assert these and other important legal rights.

Call NOW to schedule your legal consultation with our Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorneys. Everything discussed during consultation is confidential. (704)-342-4357. You may also contact Bill Powers directly by emailing him at: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

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