While the term “breaking and entering” may seem to describe a fairly clear set of behaviors, North Carolina’s laws in this area are nuanced. It is important to understand that the penalties for breaking and entering may vary greatly depending on the type of building you break into and your intention when breaking in. 

According to FindLaw, breaking and entering may be a felony or misdemeanor and may carry different penalties depending on the details of the action. For example, going without consent into a non-residential building may be a simple misdemeanor charge if you do not go in with the intent of committing a crime. However, charges may increase if you do intend to commit a crime or if you break into a religious building, such as a church or other place of worship. Felony breaking and entering charges may lead to incarceration for several months, even for first-time offenders. 

If you enter a building illegally in order to commit a crime, such as a burglary, the penalties may be far more strict. North Carolina recognizes both first- and second-degree burglary. The degree depends on whether there are people in the building when you break into it. For example, if you break into a home in order to commit theft while people are inside, you may get a first-degree charge. This is a felony that may lead to several years in prison. If a building is empty during the breaking and entering, the charge may be a lesser felony with a shorter incarceration sentence. Prior criminal history may also affect the penalties for a breaking and entering conviction.