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Home 9 Violent Crimes 9 Is It a Burglary Charge or Criminal Trespass in PA?

Is It a Burglary Charge or Criminal Trespass in PA?

Burglar breaking into a home at night through the back door

Both burglary and a charge for criminal trespass in PA are considered serious offenses under the law. However, it is important to grasp the key distinctions between them to understand their impact on your criminal record.

In this blog post, we will go deeper into the differences between criminal trespassing and different types of burglary charges, what each of them means, and how you may be sentenced under Pennsylvania law for being found guilty. By exploring these laws, you can better understand the possible outcomes you might face if you ever find yourself caught up in a related situation. If you ever do find yourself in one of these situations, don’t hesitate to contact our lawyer in Lancaster, PA, for a consultation to protect your rights.

What Does a Burglary or Criminal Trespass Charge in PA Mean?

Imagine you are walking down a quiet, residential street late at night. You notice a house with its lights off and no signs of anyone home. Curiosity gets the better of you, and you decide to have a quick look inside. You notice an unlocked window, which you push open, and you climb into the house.

Even if you walked around only briefly, without taking anything, you may have just committed a criminal trespass or burglary under Pennsylvania law. The following are the legal definitions of each under state laws.

Criminal Trespassing

In Pennsylvania, criminal trespassing is defined as knowingly unlawful entry or remaining in any place or other person’s property without their permission. Breaking into someone else’s property, even if it’s just out of curiosity and without intending harm or to steal anything, still counts as criminal trespassing.

It’s important to note that this offense can have varying degrees of severity. It often depends on whether the trespasser planned to commit another crime inside or if they ignored orders to leave and did not care to get the owner’s permission to be there.

Burglary Charges

Burglary is a more serious offense than criminal trespassing. It is defined as when a person enters into or remains inside of any building with the intent to commit a crime while knowing that it is unlawful to do so.

However, alleged burglary crimes include illegal entry and any kind of unauthorized presence in an enclosed area. This definition means you don’t need to break into a building or another person’s home for it to be considered attempted burglary. You can just have unapproved access to that area.

What Are the Main Differences Between a Burglary Charge or Criminal Trespass Charge in PA?

In Pennsylvania, the main difference between burglary offenses and criminal trespassing lies primarily in the offender’s intent and actions at the time.

What Is Considered Burglary?

A burglary occurs when you enter a building or a place where others live with the sole purpose of committing a crime. To commit burglary does not necessarily mean you commit theft, as burglary covers any type of crime.

Additionally, this criminal offense does not have to be considered a “residential burglary” either. The building you enter does not need to be a residence and could be a building where people work. However, the intent to commit a crime is an essential component of a burglary charge.

What Is Considered Criminal Trespassing?

Criminal trespass, on the other hand, concerns unlawful entry. It occurs when you enter or stay in a place knowing that you are not licensed or privileged to do so. This crime can involve breaking into a property or office building but can also include simply remaining on a property after being asked to leave.

While both charges involve unauthorized entrance, criminal trespass, and burglary differ when it comes to the intention. Criminal trespass does not require the intent to commit an additional crime once inside the property, and facing various burglary charges requires just that.

Red no trespassing sign on black fence

What Are the Penalties for Burglary Convictions in PA?

The penalties can be severe if you have been convicted of burglary in Pennsylvania. The degree of burglary in which you are charged is dictated by a classification system based on the seriousness of the crime.

First-Degree Felony Offenses for Burglary

In many of these types of burglary cases, it is sentenced as a first-degree felony. You would be convicted of a felony offense in first-degree burglary if:

  • You enter a building or occupied structure that is made for overnight accommodations (someone’s residence,) which are either separately secured or an occupied portion of the residence, and during the crime, a person enters or is there, and you attempt or threaten to commit a bodily injury to them
  • You enter someone’s residence, which is either separately secured or an occupied portion of it, and during the crime, someone is there, and you do not attempt or threaten to commit bodily injury to them.
  • You gain illegal entry to a building or operational structure that is not a place where people live, that is either secured or a sectioned-off area that usually has others in it, and there is a person present during the crime.

A felony for first-degree burglary carries over 20 years of jail time and up to $25,000 in fines.

A Felony Second-Degree Burglary Conviction

However, if you are found guilty of a felony second-degree burglary, your burglary case would have been slightly different. You would have entered a building, structure, or secured area that is not where people live, and no one is there during the crime.

A felony for second-degree burglary is also a serious crime, with a prison sentence of no more than 10 years and $25,000 in fines.

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Trespass Convictions in PA?

While criminal trespass in PA is still considered one of the more serious crimes a person commits, its penalties are far less than those who have committed burglary.

A Felony Third-Degree Criminal Trespass Offense

You would receive a felony of third-degree criminal trespass charge by sneaking in, gaining through deception, or staying hidden in any building or operational structure. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony charge carries no more than seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

A Second-Degree Felony Criminal Trespass Charge

However, you would receive a felony of second-degree criminal trespass charge by sneaking into any building or section of said building where people usually are found. This is more severe and carries up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

If You Need Burglary or Criminal Trespass Legal Assistance in Lancaster, PA, Call Marinaro Law

When you seek legal assistance after you commit a crime like burglary or criminal trespass in PA, call on the team at Marinaro Law Firm for help. An experienced attorney is ready to assist in whatever degree or types of burglary charges you or someone you know is facing. Contact us today for a consultation, and know that your criminal defense is in good hands.


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