Let’s talk about burglary. I know you think you know what it means. Someone breaking into your house to steal your things. Right and wrong. It means that and yet so much more. In my state code, a person is guilty of residential burglary if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, the person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling.
Why does this matter? Because the elements of a crime, as written into code, form the very basis of what the government has to prove in order for a person to be convicted of a crime. For burglary, the government does not have to prove that you stole anything. They do not even have to prove that you intended to steal anything.
They have to prove that at a time and place within their jurisdiction, you entered OR remained unlawfully in a dwelling (with criminal intent). This means that you could have been invited over for dinner and then simply stayed after you were told to leave. This may come as a surprise to many daters (not ALL – don’t get mad at me!) but you are actually NOT allowed to stay as long as you wish at someone’s home, simply because you had been invited over. You are there by the permission of the owner or resident, and that permission can be revoked at any time. Including when you start to get creepy, or midnight rolls around.
In addition to proving that you entered or remained unlawfully in a dwelling, the government needs to prove that you intended to commit a crime against a person or property. That is an awfully broad definition. It could mean intending to steal something, of course. But what about intending to assault someone? Or to kidnap your own child in a custody dispute? Vandalize the apartment? Look through someone’s underwear drawer? (I hope that’s a crime – it should be!) Or stand naked in front of the window in a display to (perhaps more interested) neighbors across the way? I submit that all of these various activities could fall within the definition of burglary.
So what does it mean to “intend” to commit a crime? According to our code, intent to commit a crime means that a person does any act which is a substantial step toward the commission of that crime. I think the key point in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person “acted”. This means the person has to have actually DONE something in forwarding their criminal plan, and not just thought about it.
Otherwise, if we are going to be jailed or punished for our thoughts alone, we are all at very high risk indeed. Especially the curious date who wants to look in the underwear drawer. So please avoid taking a substantial step in that direction.