Burglary in Pittsburgh
Burglary crimes are often considered two crimes in one. The nature of a burglary is that a person has entered a property they have no legal right to be in (trespassing) and they had intent to commit a crime while in that property. These are the two factors that a prosecutor must be able to prove before a defendant can face the felony charge of burglary. If they cannot prove both charges, the charges could be dropped to trespass, attempted burglary or both but they cannot pursue the felony burglary charges.
Pennsylvania Burglary Laws
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania defines burglary under Chapter 35 Burglary and other criminal intrusion portions of the code. Interestingly enough, someone who enters a place of business legally during business hours and remains in the building for the sole purpose of stealing property from that business cannot be charged with burglary, they may be charged with trespassing and with theft but they cannot be charged with burglary.
Defendants who are facing burglary charges are facing very harsh penalties under the law and this is particularly true if anyone is injured in the process or if anyone was actually in the building at the time of the break in. Some of the penalties include:
Burglary First Degree Charges
If the building is occupied at the time of the entry to commit a crime, the defendant could be facing first degree felony charges. Occupant means any person who is legally entitled to be on the property and does not include any other person who may also be involved in the crime. First degree felony convictions could mean up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to $20,000.
Burglary Second Degree Charges
Provided the building entered is not someone’s home, and the property is vacant at the time it was entered, the charges could be reduced to second degree felony. However, the penalties are still very serious including up to 10 years jail time and fines of up to $25,000.
Enhanced Crimes of Burglary
There are certain elements of a burglary which could result in what is known as enhanced charges. For example, someone who breaks into a residential home and the homeowner or a family member is at home will automatically face a first degree felony. If the defendant is found in possession of burglary tools they may face additional misdemeanor charges and if they are in possession of a firearm, the charges could be more severe.
Potential Defenses to Burglary Charges
When someone is found at another person’s property and they are in possession of any tool or weapon, it may seem that it is impossible to defend against burglary charges. However, this is not the case and an aggressive Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney can help you fight these charges. It is important to note that the prosecutor has a responsibility to establish a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of the possible defenses to burglary charges include:
- Abandoned structure – If we can prove that the defendant had reason to believe the building was abandoned it is nearly impossible for prosecutors to demonstrate there was intent to commit a crime.
- Business open during entry – If someone enters a building during business hours and hid in the building until after hours, even if they had the intent to steal the prosecutor cannot lodge burglary charges.
- Consent obtained – In some cases, the person charged with burglary had permission of the owner to enter the property. It is often surprising that person who is house-sitting can face burglary charges but it can happen.
Criminal charges should never be taken lightly and even if you believe you have done nothing wrong, it is important to ensure you hire competent legal counsel if you are facing burglary charges. The penalties and the potential of having a life-long felony criminal record are too serious not to seek legal advice.