In Pennsylvania, the charges of burglary and criminal trespassing may seem relatively similar, at least on the surface. Both of these charges involved unlawfully entering another person’s property. However, there are very distinct differences between the two charges that we want to discuss here.
Understanding Burglary Under Pennsylvania Law
Under Pennsylvania law, a person commits burglary if they enter an occupied structure or building without permission from an occupant or owner with the intent to commit another crime inside of the building.
If a prosecutor wishes to secure a conviction for this offense, they must prove that the individual charged unlawfully entered the property and that they entered with the intention of committing a crime inside the property. Buildings or occupied structures, for the purposes of this charge, include any building used for business or any structure designed for overnight accommodations (office, apartment, house, warehouse, recreational vehicle, etc.). A person can be charged with burglary regardless of whether or not there was a person present when they entered the structure.
A person can be charged with first-degree burglary or second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary is the charge a person recieves if they enter an occupied structure or building designed for overnight accommodation. Penalties for a first-degree burglary conviction include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
A person will be charged with second-degree burglary if they unlawfully enter a building to commit a crime, but the building was not adapted for overnight accommodations, and nobody was inside of building at the time. Penalties for a second-degree burglary conviction include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Understanding Criminal Trespassing Under Pennsylvania Law
Under Pennsylvania law, a person can be charged with criminal trespass if they enter any type of private property without permission from the owner or occupier. In contrast to burglary, a person can be charged with criminal trespass regardless of whether or not the property is a building or an occupied structure.
If a prosecutor wants to charge a person with criminal trespass, they must show that the individual defied in order against trespassing, which can include a locked gate, an obvious posted sign, or the person exhibited subterfuge by entering without permission. A person does not have to enter this property with the intent to commit a crime in order to be charged with criminal trespass.
In many cases, individuals are hit with a criminal trespass charge along with a burglary charge. A prosecutor will do this in hopes that if the defendant is not found guilty of burglary, they might be able to secure a conviction for a criminal trespass charge.
There are varying levels of criminal trespass charges, including:
- Tresspass into an occupied structure or building. This is a felony offense that can result in a range of up to seven to 10 years in prison upon conviction
- Trespass onto private property aside from occupied structures or buildings. This is a misdemeanor or summary offense that can result in a person serving anywhere from 90 days in jail to five years in prison.
If You Are Charged With a Crime
If you or somebody you care about has been charged with burglary or criminal trespass, needing to reach out to a skilled West Chester criminal defense attorney today. The penalties for these crimes can be severe, and we need to start working on your defense strategy as soon as possible.