Breaking and Entering Vs Trespassing in Missouri

A no trespassing sign in Missouri that informs violators of potential prosecution.

Breaking and entering and trespassing may seem like similar crimes. However, they can lead to very different outcomes in criminal cases. Generally, trespassing involves entering or remaining on or in a property without permission. 

On the other hand, Missouri does not have a “breaking and entering” law in the criminal code. What is commonly referred to as “breaking an entering” is actually 2nd degree burglary. 2nd degree burglary occurs when someone enters another person’s home or building without permission and with the intent to commit a crime; nothing needs to be broken for the state to charge burglary.

The most significant difference between the two charges is that trespassing is typically a misdemeanor offense, while second-degree burglary is a class D felony. If you’ve been charged with trespassing in Missouri or burglary, our criminal defense lawyers are here to help. 

Contact Kirsch & Kirsch today for a free case evaluation. Continue reading to learn more about breaking and entering vs. trespassing in Missouri. 

What is Considered Trespassing in Missouri?

According to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 569.140, a person commits first-degree trespassing if they intentionally or unlawfully enter a building or inhabitable structure on someone’s property without permission. It’s important to note that an individual may not be trespassing if: 

  • The property is not enclosed (i.e., fenced, gated, etc., although this could amount to trespass in the second degree), or 
  • There is no notice posted against trespassing, or 
  • The property owner/manager does not communicate with the trespasser to leave the property

Additionally, an individual commits second-degree trespassing if they unlawfully enter another person’s real property (i.e., land). However, it’s important to note that second-degree trespassing is not a misdemeanor or felony offense. Instead, it is an infraction of Missouri law. 

Further, 2nd-degree trespassing is a “crime of absolute liability.” That means you may be charged even if you didn’t know you were committing the offense.

What is the Penalty For Trespassing in Missouri?

In most cases, 1st-degree trespassing in Missouri is a class B misdemeanor. If convicted, defendants face up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines. 

However, individuals who trespass against and intentionally target police officers or members of their families can face class A misdemeanor charges – which are the most serious types of misdemeanors in Missouri. 

What’s The Difference Between Burglary and Trespassing? 

Under Missouri criminal law, there’s a significant line between trespassing and burglary. Generally, trespassing turns into burglary if a person unlawfully enters or remains in a building or inhabitable structure with the intent to commit a crime. 

Additionally, 2nd-degree burglary can become 1st-degree burglary if an individual unlawfully enters or remains in a building or inhabitable structure with the intent to commit a crime while inside, and they:

  1. Are armed with a deadly weapon or explosives
  1. Threaten or cause physical injuries to another person (other than fellow participants in the crime)
  1. There is another person in the structure who is not a part of the crime 

It’s essential to note that the threshold for proving an intent to commit a crime while inside a structure is pretty low. 

That means that an individual can potentially face breaking and entering charges for relatively small offenses. For example, suppose an individual pushes open a window and takes a plant from the sill. In that case, they could face 2nd-degree burglary charges. 

Penalties For Breaking and Entering 

Second-degree burglary (i.e., breaking and entering) is a class D felony. Individuals convicted of 2nd-degree burglary in Missouri face up to seven years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Additionally, individuals convicted of 1st-degree burglary charges face class B felony charges. The penalties for 1st-degree burglary can include up to 15 years imprisonment, fines, and more. 

Defenses to Trespassing and Burglary Charges in Missouri

Trespassing and burglary charges don’t always result in a conviction. That’s especially true if you’re working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Generally, there are a few potential defenses to trespassing charges, depending on the circumstances of your case. 

They include but are not limited to: 

  • Public or private necessity (i.e., you had a good reason to be on the property)
  • You had the privilege to be on the property
  • You were given consent to be on the property
  • There was no intent to commit a crime

1st and 2nd-degree burglary charges are more serious and challenging to defend than trespassing. However, depending on the circumstances of the case, a criminal defense lawyer can potentially mount a solid defense resulting in decreased or dismissed charges. 

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Missouri Today

If you’ve been charged with breaking and entering or trespassing in Missouri, it’s in your best interest to consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

The attorneys at Kirsch & Kirsch have years of experience standing up for our client’s rights and obtaining the least amount of punishment possible under the circumstances. We’re confident we can obtain the most favorable outcome in your case as well. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.