Most people consider vandalism to be a petty crime that carries light consequences. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania aggressively prosecutes crimes against property. As a result, you could wind up facing felony vandalism charges that carry heavy prison sentences and thousands of dollars in fines. Understanding these charges and how to defend yourself is the key to getting…
Burglary and Trespassing Defense
If you have been arrested and charged with burglary in Philadelphia, you need immediate legal help from a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled burglary cases. Lauren Wimmer brings cutting-edge defense strategies and a sophisticated understanding of the law to every burglary case she handles. To set up a free and confidential consultation with attorney Lauren Wimmer, call (215) 712-1212 today.
Were You Arrested and Charged with Burglary in Pennsylvania?
Contrary to popular belief, burglary does not necessarily entail stealing anything. In Pennsylvania, the legal definition of this crime is far broader in scope.
Pennsylvania’s definition can be found at 18 Pa.C.S. § 3502(a). A person commits burglary in Pennsylvania when he or she enters a building or other structure with intent to commit any crime – not necessarily theft – while inside.
The Penalties for Burglary Charges Can be Severe
Burglary is a very serious offense that is always graded as a felony under Pennsylvania’s burglary statute. In fact, in many situations it is a first degree felony – the highest level of crime aside from murder. First degree felonies are graver crimes than second degree felonies, third degree felonies, misdemeanors, or summary offenses. Other first degree felonies in Pennsylvania include rape, kidnapping, and theft of $500,000 or more.
The penalties for burglary depend largely on two factors:
- Whether the building was a “residence;” and
- Whether people were inside the structure at the time of the alleged offense.
Burglary is a first degree felony under any one of the following circumstances:
- The burglary involved a home, and someone was present;
- The burglary involved a home, but no one was present;
- The burglary did not involve a home, but someone was present; or
- The burglary did not involve a home, and no one was present – but the offender entered the premises specifically to steal drugs.
Burglary is a second degree felony only if it did not involve a home, no one was present, and the offense did not involve theft of a controlled substance. For instance, breaking into an empty store to steal jewelry would be a second degree felony.
The criminal penalties for first degree felony burglary in Pennsylvania may include:
- Sentence – Up to 20 years in prison
- Criminal Fine – Up to $25,000
The criminal penalties for second degree felony burglary in Pennsylvania may include:
- Sentence – Up to 10 years in prison
- Criminal Fine – Up to $25,000
There are two types of trespassing crimes in Pennsylvania: simple trespass and defiant trespass. Both of these crimes involve being somewhere you are not legally allowed to be, but differ based on the trespasser’s knowledge and intent.
Criminal trespass, is a crime closely related to burglary. Prosecuted under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3503, criminal trespass involves unlawfully entering, breaking into, or remaining in any building or occupied structure despite the person “knowing that he [or she] is not licensed or privileged to do so.” If the actor trespasses in a building, it is charged under § 3503(a)(1)(i) or (ii). Subsection (i) is a third degree felony, and punishes trespassing in a building by sneaking in. Subsection (ii) is a second degree felony – a more severe crime – because it punishes breaking into a building. This would be the equivalent of what many states call “breaking and entering.”
If someone trespasses in any place – not necessarily a building – after being told to leave, they violate § 3503(b) by committing a “defiant trespass.” This crime is usually a third degree or first degree misdemeanor and requires warning the defendant that they are not permitted to be in the area. This can be accomplished by posted signs, actual communication, or by fencing/walling off the area against entry.
Simple trespass is the lightest form of trespass, punished under § 3503(b.1). This crime is a summary offense, the lowest level of crime. This is charged when someone “enters or remains in any place” (not necessarily a building) that they know they are not allowed to be in. Simply being somewhere is not a crime, though; to violate the law, the actor must trespass to threaten someone, start a fire, or deface property. Without this intent, there is no crime.
The penalties for first and second degree felonies are described above. Penalties for other levels of crime may include the following:
- Summary Offense
- » Sentence – Up to 90 days
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $300
- Third Degree Misdemeanor
- » Sentence – Up to 1 year
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $2,000
- Second Degree Misdemeanor
- » Sentence – Up to 2 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $5,000
- First Degree Misdemeanor
- » Sentence – Up to 5 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $10,000
- Third Degree Felony
- » Sentence – Up to 7 years
- » Criminal Fine – Up to $15,000
While any criminal charge is an urgent matter that demands attention from an experienced defense attorney, skilled representation is especially critical in cases involving felony charges. You need an experienced Philadelphia burglary lawyer who can protect your rights throughout every stage of the criminal proceeding process, from your preliminary hearing in Municipal Court to trial in the Court of Common Pleas, if necessary. Lauren Wimmer is a former Clerk in the Philadelphia homicide unit and will fight for a favorable resolution to your case, starting from day one. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense or call 215-712-1212 for a free consultation and to learn how we can work to reduce the actual charges you will face as well as the resulting consequences.
If You’ve Been Charged with Burglary or Trespassing, Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
For a free and confidential legal consultation about your burglary charges, contact Lauren Wimmer right away.