Have You Been Arrested For Burglary?
Burglary is a serious crime under Pennsylvania law just as it is under the laws of every jurisdiction in the United States. Sometimes referred to as “breaking and entering” (though this term is somewhat antiquated and misleading), burglary occurs when an individual enters a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime therein. It is this intent that separates the crime of burglary from trespassing.
The law surrounding the crime of burglary can be nuanced and extremely fact-specific; the focus in the vast majority of burglary cases where defenses are available is whether the defendant had the intent to commit a crime inside the structure at the time of entry. See Commonwealth v. Magnum, 654 A.2d. 1146, 1147 (Pa. Super. 1995).
How The Law Works In Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, all burglaries constitute felony offenses of varying degrees with a felony 1 offense carrying the greatest possible penalties and a felony 2 carrying the least (to learn more about the grading of offenses under PA law and the maximum penalties, see here).
Under Pennsylvania law, burglary is broken down as follows:
- Entry into a structure adapted for overnight accommodation (think: a home, a hunting cabin, etc.)
- Entry into a structure not adapted for overnight accommodation (think: a garage, a store, etc.)
The “grading” of burglary offenses (whether or not it is a felony 1 or felony 2) as well as the minimum sentencing exposure (a function of what is called the “offense gravity score” or OGS) is also based on whether a person/occupant was present at the time of entry.
So, in descending order of seriousness, Pennsylvania law penalizes burglary as follows:
- Entry into a structure adapted for overnight accommodation where any person is present — felony 1, OGS 9
- Entry into a structure adapted for overnight accommodation where no person is present — felony 1, OGS 7
- Entry into a structure not adapted for overnight accommodation where any person is present — felony 1, OGS 6
- Entry into a structure not adapted for overnight accommodation where no person is present — felony 2, OGS 5
There are several important points to note:
- For the crime of burglary to be complete, the intent to commit a crime must be contemporaneous with the actual entry into the structure. In other words, if a person breaks into a home to sleep on the floor and then, upon waking, decides to steal a TV, that person did not commit the crime of burglary. Two separate crimes occurred: trespassing and theft. In this example, the person who broke in did not have the intent to steal the TV or commit any other crime at the time they broke into the house.
- While people most typically associate burglary with theft — breaking into a house to steal a TV — the intent to commit any crime inside the structure at the time of entry makes the entry a burglary. Breaking into a home with the intent to assault an occupant (assault) or to set the house on fire (arson) also constitutes burglary.
- No “breaking” is required. Merely entering a structure that you are not licensed to enter through an unlocked door with the intent to commit a crime therein constitutes burglary.
Act Now To Protect Your Rights
If you or a loved one has been charged with burglary, act quickly and contact the State College criminal defense attorneys at Rehmeyer & Allatt. Burglary is a serious offense and a conviction for burglary can have life-altering consequences. Our criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience representing individuals charged with burglary and other serious felony offenses. Contact our State College office today for a free consultation: 814-343-0453.