Most people associate burglary with theft, but the main element of a burglary charge is entering an occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime. Most people who are charged with burglary in Iowa are accused of entering a building without permission to commit theft, but they would face the same charge if their alleged intent was to commit an assault, set a fire or plant a bomb. This is why burglary is often charged along with other crimes like arson or sexual assault.
Only individuals who enter an occupied structure without permission or remain in an occupied structure after it has been closed to the public or they have been asked to leave can be charged with burglary. However, this does not mean there has to be people inside the building at the time of the break in. Breaking into an office after workers have left for the day or a store after it has closed with the intent to commit a crime would lead to a burglary charge and so would hiding in a bathroom until everybody has left.
Breaking into an occupied structure only leads to a burglary charge in Iowa if the individual entering the structure without permission intends to commit a crime. If they break in for some other reason and only decide to commit a crime once inside, they would not be guilty of burglary in Iowa. For example, braking into a building to rescue a trapped animal and then picking up some money that was in plain view would not lead to a burglary charge. The penalties for burglary can be severe in Iowa, which is why a good criminal defense strategy would be to study police reports closely in these cases to make sure that all of the elements of the crime are present.
Most burglary cases in Iowa are resolved by plea agreements. This is because burglary charges give prosecutors several negotiating options. There are three degrees of burglary in Iowa, and their maximum sentences range from five to 25 years in prison. When a prosecutor can cut a defendants sentence in half just by reducing the charge from first-degree burglary to second-degree burglary, their offer could be very difficult to turn down.