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Traditionally, burglary was a crime that consisted of breaking and entering a dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony therein. Over time, that complicated definition was simplified and made easier to prove.
In Pennsylvania, burglary is defined as “unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime therein” (18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 3502). Below are a few basic facts about burglary charges in Philadelphia.
1. Burglary Can Occur In Any Building
Many people believe burglary is a crime that can only be committed if a person breaks into someone’s home. However, updated laws have expanded to include any building, such as a retail store, warehouse, hotel, etc.
While entering a home to commit a crime is still classified as burglary, it is no longer the only way defendants can be convicted of the crime.
Current burglary laws include “home invasion” as a type of burglary which carries stiffer punishments than burglary of a non-residential building.
2. Both Elements Of Burglary Must Be Proven In Order For A Defendant To Be Found Guilty
The crime of burglary has two parts, known in legal terms as “elements.” In order for a prosecutor to successfully show a defendant’s guilt, she must prove both elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The first element is entering a building. This can be proven in many ways, such as eyewitness testimony, DNA evidence or security footage.
The second element is “with the intent to commit a crime therein.” This element is a little more difficult to prove, because it requires some way of showing what the defendant intended to do upon entering the building.
Usually, prosecutors try to prove this using circumstantial evidence, such as proving the defendant had a weapon, that he told someone about his plans to commit a crime in the building, that he was wearing all black to be undetected, or knew that they were not supposed to be there, etc.
It is important to note that the defendant must have intended to commit the crime before entering the building (e.g., if someone entered a home then decided to steal a laptop once inside, this would not meet the intent element since the defendant did not intend to commit a crime before entering).
Also, it doesn’t matter whether the crime intended was actually committed. As long as the defendant entered the building with the intent to commit a crime therein, the crime of burglary was complete.
3. Burglary Is A Felony
A felony is the most serious type of crime that someone can be convicted of in the state of Pennsylvania. Burglaries can be classified as either first degree felonies or second degree felonies depending on certain factors.
If the burglary occurs in a home, it is a first degree felony, which can result in up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Burglary is also a first degree felony if the building that is burglarized has people inside at the time of the crime.
If the residence is occupied at the time of the Burglary, then a conviction would be a strike. For a first strike, the sentence is decided by a judge.
For a second strike the judge must sentence the defendant to at least ten to twenty years. For a third strike, the sentence must be at least 25 years and can be a life sentence.
If the building is not a home and there are no people inside the building at the time of entry, then the burglary is classified as a second degree felony.
A second degree felony can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
4. There Are Defenses Available To Fight Against Burglary
Those who are convicted of burglary face serious time if found guilty. But, just because someone is charged with burglary does not mean they will ultimately pay large fines and serve time in jail.
A good defense lawyer can determine whether the defendant was allowed to be in the building at the time (e.g. if it was open to the public, if he had permission to enter, etc.), and also whether the defendant intended to commit a crime in the building.
Just because an individual enters a building illegally, it does not mean that they intended to commit a crime once inside.
If the intent to commit a crime inside cannot be established, then the charge may be reduced to trespassing or perhaps dismissed altogether.
Contact The Law Office Of M.J. Snyder Today
If you have been arrested or charged with burglary, it is imperative that you discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Marni Jo Snyder is an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney who can fight against the charges you are facing and find the best possible resolution to your burglary charge.
Contact our offices today at 215-515-3360 for a free consultation.