Many people believe that burglary occurs when there is a theft from a home. That is correct, however, under Pennsylvania law, burglary can encompass additional scenarios where a theft never occurs. A Philadelphia theft lawyer can help answer any questions about the law and how it might apply to a burglary case.
Under Pennsylvania criminal statute 18 Section 3502 (a), a person commits the crime of burglary if they enter a building or other structure with the intent to commit a crime once inside. This is purposefully vague, and allows the police to charge burglary in any situation where they believe a person was inside a building without permission and specifically intended to commit a crime while inside. The crime committed inside can be anything, not just theft.
There are a few caveats to this general rule. If the premises are open to the public, such as a mall, retail store, or other business, merely entering the building is not a crime. Further, if the building was abandoned at the time of the entry, burglary will not apply.
For a person to “enter a building” under the Pennsylvania definition, they must physically be inside the building. However, the entire body need not be inside. For example, reaching through an open window to steal something that is just inside the window is still considered a burglary. It is irrelevant whether the building is a home, business, or other structure. A Philadelphia burglary lawyer can help explain how the law may apply to the facts of a case.
Prior to entering the building, the individual must have decided that they will commit a crime while inside. The intended crime may include assault, theft, or vandalism. The only crime that the individual cannot intend to commit as the underlying crime for burglary is criminal trespass. The individual has to have further criminal intent.
Keep in mind, the accused individual does not have to actually complete or commit the crime intended, but merely have the intent and enter the building without permission to do so and commit another crime once inside. In court, a Philadelphia burglary lawyer can help build a defense that takes advantage of weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument that criminal intent existed.
Philadelphia courts will have burglary graded as either a Felony in the first degree (Felony 1) or a Felony in the second degree (Felony 2). The Court will differentiate between the two different grades based on the circumstances and alleged facts of the burglary.
If the building that was burglarized was not someone’s residence, and nobody was present inside the building at the time of the burglary, then the crime will be graded as a Felony 2. As such, the maximum allowable punishment would be 5-10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
If the building is a residence, or someone is present in the building (regardless of whether it is a residence) at the time of the burglary, then it will be graded as a Felony 1. In that case, the punishment will increase. The maximum sentence allowed would be 10-20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. However, if the structure is occupied and adapted for overnight accommodation, the Pennsylvania three strike rule may also apply.
While the incarceration time and fine are both discretionary, the court generally determines the sentence after reviewing the person’s prior record against the gravity of the offense. Sentencing guidelines may seem tricky, which is why it is important to have a Philadelphia burglary lawyer by a person’s side.