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  • Break and Enter Offences and Penalties in Queensland (QLD)

    One of the many actions that constitute a burglary offence in Queensland is outlined in Chapter 39 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). Section 421 of the Code describes the circumstances and actions leading to a Breaking-In and Entering offence in Queensland.

    Under Queensland laws, it is an offence for a person to break into or enter a place when they do not have consent. Or where such persons are found in the premise, refuse to leave after the owner requests for such.

    If an individual is convicted in a Queensland court for a Break and Enter offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in Qld.

    1. The offence of Entering or being on-premises

    A person commits an offence if they break or enter a premises (public space) with malicious intent. It includes where such persons enter the premises to commit an indictable crime in Queensland. The three primary characteristics of this offence are;

    • Entering the Premise

    The offence of entering or being on premises includes ten years of imprisonment. And this offence is described in Section 421 (Chapter 39) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).

    • Breaking into the premise and committing an indictable offence

    Subsection 2 of the Act describes a crime where a person in another premise commits an indictable offence. It is an offence with punishment up to 14 years imprisonment.

    • Break and Entering By breaking in

    A person guilty of an indictable offence by breaking into the premise is liable to punishments reaching life imprisonment.

    1. Main Burglary Offence

    The general offences of Breaking into a premise are sometimes subsumed into Burglary offences. Section 419(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) describes a Burglary offence to occur when the accused person;

    • Enters a building or any private dwelling through any break in means. It is an offence that is punishable by as much as ten years imprisonment.

    It is aggravating circumstance if the accused person;

    • Committed the Act in the dark/night-time
    • Threatens to use actual violence to break into the premise,
    • Pretends to be armed with an offensive weapon, element or threatening equipment
    • Committed the offence in a group or with others
    • Damages or destroys any property in the attempt of breaking in

    The penalty for burglary offences in Queensland under section 419 is 14 years imprisonment for a basic crime and a life imprisonment term for aggravating circumstances to the offence.

    Subsection 4 of s419 describes an offence where a person enters the dwelling of another to commit an indictable offence. It is an offence attracting up to life imprisonment. There are other circumstances of aggravation listed in the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) and section 161Q.

    1. Possession of things/equipments that aid unlawful entry

    Section 425 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) makes it an offence for a person to have;

    • An offensive or dangerous weapon,
    • Noxious substances or instruments,
    • Armed with a substance for breaking into a premise
    • An arm for committing an indictable offence

    Or

    • They intended to use any of these instruments or equipment to commit a burglary or break-in offence.
    • Possessed such equipment by night or day in an attempt to commit an indictable offence
    • Put on a disguise such as blackening/masking the face.

    The person is guilty of a crime that attracts up to 3 years of imprisonment.

    The offender is liable to 7 years imprisonment if convicted of an offence relating to the property.

    1. The unlawful entry of a vehicle

    Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) describes an offence where a person illegally enters a vehicle, especially if they commit an indictable offence. It is a crime that attracts punishments up to ten years imprisonment or more in the case of aggravating circumstances.

    Some examples of aggravating circumstances for unlawful entry of vehicle includes;

    • If the offence was committed in the night,
    • The offender uses threatening material or violence
    • Pretends to be armed with a weapon, instruments or
    • In possession of a toxic substance
    • Committed the offence in a company

    Aggravating circumstance for offences against section 427 is 14 years imprisonment term.

    What is Breaking-in?

    Section 418 of the Act defines certain useful terms relevant to a break in the offence.

    A person is guilty of breaking any dwelling or premise if they;

    • Unlock the doors or any opening,
    • Pull at any barrier or door,
    • Push any material used as barrier/opening,
    • lift any flap, windows, cellar or shutter.

    Entering a building

    Section 418(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) defines an offence of illegal entering when any part/instrument or attachment of a person is within the dwelling or premises. A person can only legally enter a building if they have the permission of the actual owners of the property.

    A person is also guilty of an entering offence if they gain entrance into the dwelling by any means, including;

    • Threats of similar weapons used for the purpose,
    • Conspires with another to commit the break-in offence.

    Also, a person may not enter any permanently open way into the house. It is not a defence to the charge that the area was opened.

    Break-in offences apply to lots of areas/structures in Queensland, including;

    • Building/structures – any erected structure or part of a building, NOT a dwelling.
    • Break-in offences can also include; Tent, Caravans, vehicles, etc.
    • Other places similar to those listed here or by the jury.

    1. Taking control of an aircraft

    It is a severe offence for a person to hijack a plane, especially where many passengers are. It is a crime to hijack an aircraft, and such offence attracts penalties reaching seven years imprisonment for a primary offence.

    The aggravating circumstance for this offence will be treated by more severe punishments reaching 14 years imprisonment. It includes where multiple people were aboard the plane.

    If the offender used a weapon or other material instrument that would cause violence or harm to the life of the other. It incurs a penalty term of life imprisonment for whoever the court finds guilty.

    What the prosecutor will need to prove in court

    Most Burglary charges are severe and cannot be heard summarily in a local Queensland court. Indictable offences often incur very severe penalties together with a conviction reward.

    The court hearing a burglary matter will request the prosecution to provide relevant evidence and documents to be submitted in court.

    The prosecutor must prove that;

    • The person unlawfully entered the house or covering
    • The accused person was unsure of their location at the time
    • The accused person remained in the house even when requested to leave
    • The person entered the premises through the use of force
    • The accused person used threats and violence
    • Destroyed any of the parts of the structure/building to gain access.
    • The person knew that the building/structure was already owned
    • Intended to commit an indictable crime in breaking into the structure

    It is irrelevant for Chapter 39 of the Criminal Code if the accused person successfully committed the indictable offence.

    Some Examples of Break and Entering premises offence includes;

    • Entering or stealing into an unlocked backdoor to steal valuables,
    • Trying to pick up an item inside the window of another premises
    • Sawing through a garage door to steal any equipment

    What is the difference between Entering a premise and Burglary?

    While most people use this term interchangeably, they are technically different. The essential difference between both terms is that Burglary refers to dwellings (residential habitation) or other personal spaces.

    Break and Entering offence usually includes offences against any public offices or facilities.

    What are the defences to a Break/Enter offence?

    Having a conviction or sentencing for a break in the offence can hamper your career or Background Checks. The first step to defending your innocence for a Break/Enter offence is to appear in court for your defence on the stated date.

    There are many defences a person can argue before the court to prove their innocence for a “Break/Enter" charge.

    • No intent to commit a crime

    There is every possibility that the accused person was in “the wrong place at the wrong time”. The defence counsel can argue on behalf of their client that they had no intention to commit an offence by breaking into the premise. If the argument is strong enough, the matter can be dismissed as an accident.

    • Mistaken Identity

    For many reasons and errors, a person can be wrongly accused of a break and entry offence due to many reasons/mistakes. However, such accused persons must prove with necessary evidence that they are not the same person as initially suspected.

    • The location is not a premise.

    Not all premises can qualify as "Entering offences" from the description above. The court may issue lesser sentencing if the premise the accused person is guilty of breaking into is not a "premise" for this section.

    Which court hears a matter of Break/Enter in Queensland?

    The Magistrates Court in Queensland hears summary offences similar to burglary offences. However, severe Break and Entry or Burglary crimes are referred to higher courts like the District court.

    Self-Defence from Burglary/Entering offences in Queensland

    As stipulated by section 267 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), it is lawful for a person to defend themselves or their properties from burglars. However, the law regulates the counter-force to be in a manner and degree that is reasonable with the circumstance.

    The degree of urgency of the danger usually determines if the reaction is reasonable. For example, lethal weapons are only permissible for self-defence if the victim is at extreme risk of hurt or death.

    Will a Break and Enter Offence in Queensland (Qld) show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a Break and Enter offence in Qld, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal background check.

    Individuals can obtain a criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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