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What is your definition of nighttime?

What is your definition of nighttime?

Interpretation of codified crimes continuously evolves as science and technology advance. For our criminal justice system to work, the concept of advocacy must exist at all levels and in all branches of the system and be as strongly argued for the government as for the criminal defendants. By having two disparate sides analyzing and arguing the same set of facts based on the same codification of law, the criminal justice system is, at its best, protecting the innocent and isolating the guilty.

For this discussion, it will be necessary to practice advocating for definitions of a simple element in a common-law crime—burglary.

Burglary is the unlawful entry into the dwelling place of another at nighttime with the intent to commit a felony.

The criminal justice system, for many decades, argued over the term nighttime until the U.S. Supreme Court finally provided the final definition. Many jurisdictions removed the nighttime element from the crime to simplify prosecution.

What is your definition of nighttime? Why do you think your definition is correct? Use of various definitions of the element by state and the U.S. Supreme Courts is permissible but not required.


                                                            CLASSMATE’S RESPONSE

To me, nighttime is the time between when the sun sets and when it rises. But more important than the definition of nighttime is why it matters. In my research, Blackstone within the Commentaries on the Laws of England (in 1769) stated: “the malignity of the offense does not so properly arise from its being done in the dark, as in the dead of night, when all the creation, except beasts of prey, are at rest; when sleep has disarmed the owner and rendered his castle defenseless [sic]” (Nichols, 1946).

Considering how so many of our laws come from our shared history, it makes sense that in the 1700’s, or even in the 1940’s when this piece was written, a distinction should be made for night time because the vast majority of society was only up and working during the day. Now, with schedules, technology, and our global economy, society is regularly up late into the night, up before the sun in the morning, or both. Regardless of the lawful definition of nighttime, I am glad that many states have removed this verbiage from burglary codes.


Nichols, N.J. (1946). Criminal Law – Burglary in the Nighttime. Louisiana Law Review 6(4). Retrieved from


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What is your definition of nighttime? was first posted on June 23, 2019 at 9:25 am.
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