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Burglary

One of the most serious crimes that can be committed in Pennsylvania is burglary. If you have been accused of burglary, the criminal defense attorneys at Kope and Associates can help you understand the charges against you and will provide powerful and aggressive legal representation to help you achieve the most positive results possible for your case.

Defined

The charge of burglary (as well as the lesser crime of criminal trespass) is concerned with unauthorized entries (actual “breaking in” is not required) into buildings or occupied structures, or separately secured or occupied portions thereof.

Note that, as defined by statute, an “occupied structure” is any structure, vehicle or place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or for carrying on business therein, whether or not a person is actually present. Burglaries of a structure adapted for overnight accommodation include homes, hotels, motels, camp structures, and house trailers (but not a fenced and locked backyard of these structures).

It is important to remember that the unauthorized entry into any building is still considered a burglary, regardless of whether or not the building is considered to be an occupied structure. The only difference between the two types of premises is the grading of the burglary charge (as explained more fully in the following paragraph).

The offense of burglary is a felony of the first degree, unless the building, structure, or portion thereof entered is not adapted for overnight accommodation and no individual is present at the time of entry, in which case the crime is a felony of the second degree. A felony one burglary would include any of the following scenarios: (1) the structure is adapted for overnight accommodation and no individual is present; (2) the structure is not adapted for overnight accommodation and an individual is present; or (3) the structure is adapted for overnight accommodation and an individual is present Otherwise, burglary is a felony of the second degree.

Note that burglary and robbery are two separate and distinct offenses. Although larceny may be involved in either, burglary is concerned primarily with entry into a building, while robbery is primarily concerned with the physical person of the victim.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that in order for a crime to be a burglary, the person unlawfully entering the building has to intend on committing a crime therein (any crime, not just theft) and that person cannot be licensed or privileged to enter. The building also cannot be open to the public at the time the person is unlawfully entering the premises.

So, the statutory (official) definition of burglary is that a person is guilty of burglary if such person enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof, with intent to commit a crime therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or such person is licensed or privileged to enter.

Within the context of the offense of burglary, the element of entry is satisfied if any part of the intruder's body enters the structure.

Note that actual “breaking in” is not required, as any unlawful entry of any part of the person’s body will satisfy the element of entry.

Once a defendant enters a private residence by criminal means, intent of a criminal purpose can be inferred based on the totality of the circumstances; thus, a defendant can be convicted of burglary without any allegation or proof as to what particular crime he or she intended to commit after his or her forcible entry. So, to sustain a burglary conviction, the Commonwealth is not required to allege or prove which particular crime the defendant intended to commit after forcible entry. In fact, forcible entry is not an element of the crime of burglary.

The crime of burglary must be accompanied by specific intent. In order to be guilty of the offense, a defendant must enter the building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime. Such intent must be formed prior to or contemporaneously with entry, not afterwards.

As long as the requisite intent to commit a crime is present, it is irrelevant to a charge of burglary whether the actor is actually able to complete the crime.

To make out the crime of burglary, the Commonwealth must show, as an element of the offense, that the premises were not open to the public at the time of the entry. Such a showing is required regardless of the actor's intent at the time of entry onto the premises.

Defenses

It is a defense to a prosecution for burglary that the building or structure entered was abandoned. For the purposes of this defense, an abandoned building is one that is wholly forsaken or deserted; mere nonuse for a short period of time is insufficient. Mistake by a defendant as to the abandonment of a building or structure is not a defense.

A person who is licensed or privileged to enter a building cannot be guilty of burglary even if the entry is made with intent to commit a crime once inside. The concepts of license and privilege encompass, among other things, such various situations as where the person or persons may naturally be expected to be on the premises often and in the natural course of their duties or habits.

Note that, althoughthe commission of a crime inside a building by an actor who is licensed or privileged to enter such structure cannot render the actor guilty of burglary, an employee may not admit a thief to the employee’s place of business, with full knowledge and intent to further the crime, and thereby license or make privileged the thief's entry, where the employer who occupies the premises would not have agreed to such an admittance.  Also, employees themselves may commit burglary if they would not reasonably be expected to be present at the time of their entry.

The element of license and privilege, as it pertains to entry into a building or occupied structure in connection with the commission of a burglary, cannot be induced by deception, such as a defendant's posing as a meter reader, or from an occupant who is intoxicated and unable to make a reasonable judgment as to the nature or harmfulness of the situation at hand.

Evidence of a defendant's mere presence at the scene of a burglary, without additional evidence, is insufficient to establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof of participation is necessary for conviction. In the absence of any evidence connecting the presence of the defendant at the scene and the criminal activity, a conviction cannot stand.

Conclusion

Due to its serious nature, the crime of burglary will likely carry jail time, ranging from a relatively minor period of incarceration to a very significant one. It is, therefore, imperative to hire an experienced defense attorney who understands the crime of burglary and how to defend against it. The experienced defense attorneys at Kope and Associates understand the intricacies of burglary and the various defenses to this crime. These knowledgeable attorneys will look at the evidence thoroughly to determine the best possible defense, including, but not limited to, issues involving identification, Gang misconduct and other suppression issues. The defense attorneys at Kope and Associates will use their knowledge and experience to aggressively pursue the best possible outcome by developing the strongest possible defense.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a burglary in Harrisburg, York, or surrounding areas of Pennsylvania, please contact Kope and Associates as soon as possible for a free consultation. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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