Understanding the Difference Between Burglary and Criminal Trespass

intrusion of a burglar in a house inhabited

Burglary is the unauthorized entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime. If the building can accommodate overnight stays then the accused commits a felony of the first degree. In all other cases burglary is considered a second degree felony. A typical defense to burglary is that the building was abandoned at the time that the individual entered it. In addition, the prosecution must demonstrate that the accused actually intended to commit a crime after he entered the premises. Intent to commit a crime is often established through circumstantial evidence and may be shown by the accused actions, circumstances or any inferences therefrom. For example if the accused took a television from the building that could establish his intent to steal after he entered the building without the consent of the owner. Conversely, if the accused was intoxicated that could be a defense because he would be unable to form the intent to commit a crime.

Criminal trespass is when the accused enters or remains in a building without the consent of the owner or refuses to leave after being told to do so. Criminal trespass, like burglary is also a felony of the second or third degree based on the level of force used to enter the premises. If the individual breaks in, it is a 2nd degree felony and all other types of entry are considered a 3rd degree felony. Criminal trespassing can also be a misdemeanor where a court finds that an individual simply entered the premises without permission or refused to leave. However, such a trespasser faces incarceration after four convictions.

The reason the grading is important is because it determines the number of years of incarceration the accused will serve if found guilty. The maximum penalty for a felony, misdemeanor and summary offenses are as follows:

Felony 1st Degree 20 years in prison
Felony 2nd Degree 10 years in prison
Felony 3rd Degree 7 years in prison
Misdemeanor 1st Degree 5 years in prison
Misdemeanor 2nd Degree 2 years in prison
Misdemeanor 3rd Degree 1 year in prison
Summary Offense 90 days in county jail

If you are charged with Burglary or Criminal Trespass contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604, of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.

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