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Burglary In Canberra

The offence of burglary in Canberra and the ACT is contained in section 311 of the Criminal Code 2002. A person commits burglary if they enter or remain in a building as a trespasser, with an intent to steal property, commit an offence involving violence or property damage, or commit an offence with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for at least five years. The maximum penalty for the offence of burglary in Canberra is a fine of 1400 penalty units and/or 14 years imprisonment.

What is burglary in Canberra?

The offence of burglary in Canberra involves entering or remaining in a building with an intent to commit an offence. The definition of “building” includes part of a building, a mobile home or caravan, and a structure, vehicle or vessel that is used, designed or adapted for residential purposes.

In order for a court to find a person guilty of burglary, it must be satisfied that they remained on the premises and had the intent to:

  • commit theft from those premises, or
  • commit an offence involving violence or property damage, or
  • commit any offence with a penalty of at least five years imprisonment.

Aggravated burglary in Canberra

Under section 312 of the Criminal Code, a person is guilty of aggravated burglary if they commit burglary in company with one or more other persons or if they commit burglary while in possession of an offensive weapon.

The maximum penalties that apply for aggravated burglary is a fine of 2,000 penalty units, imprisonment for 20 years, or both.  

Possible defences to burglary

A person charged with burglary in Canberra may defend the charge by advancing one of the following legal defences.

Absence of intent

An accused person is not guilty of burglary if they entered a building for an innocent purpose. If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intended to commit an indictable offence, they must be found not guilty.


A person is not guilty of a criminal offence if they committed the acts charged only because of threats made to them of death or serious harm. If a person can establish that such threats were made to them and were of so serious a nature to have caused a reasonable person to fear for their life, they will be found not guilty on the basis of duress. For this defence to succeed, the threats must still have been acting on the mind of the accused at the time of the offence. 

A person charged with burglary may also rely on a factual defence such as the existence of an alibi or mistaken identification.


A burglary matter can be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court (where the accuse dis an adult) or Children’s Court (where the accused is under 18) provided the value of the property involved (not including a motor vehicle) is not more than $30 000. This can occur where both defence and prosecution agree to the matter being dealt with in a lower court. 

Burglary can also be dealt with on indictment in the ACT District Court. When this occurs, the matter will commence in a lower court and proceed through a committal hearing.  For advice or representation in relation to burglary in Canberra or in any legal issue, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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