Overview of Burglary in Pennsylvania

Burglary in Pennsylvania is defined as the unlawful entry of a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside.

Burglary and robbery are sometimes confused, but the two crimes differ. Often, there are no victims present in a burglary, though, if a person is present and harmed during a burglary, then penalties are much harsher. Robbery generally involves the use of force or fear upon a victim to obtain another person’s property.

Burglary has been recognized as a crime for centuries and laws have been developed to protect people in their homes as well as their occupied properties –like a home, apartment, town house, RV, or an office building.

If you or a loved one have been charged with burglary, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC, as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, burglary is a serious offense, often penalized with felony or misdemeanor charges, long prison sentences and significant fines. A trustworthy criminal defense lawyer will research to build the best case, as well as provide guidance and advice as you navigate the legal system.

Burglary Rates in the US and Pennsylvania

According to Statista’s report titled, “Burglary Rate in the US in 2020, by State,” New Mexico and Oklahoma had the highest burglary rates in the United States. New Mexico had 648.8 occurrences per 100,000 residents and Oklahoma had 613.3 incidents per 100,000 residents.

Pennsylvania ranked in the lower half of the list with a burglary rate of 248.6 occurrences per 100,00 residents.

The report noted that, “the overall reported burglary rate in the US has decreased significantly since 1990.” Despite the decline, burglary remains the fourth most common type of crime in the US.

Three Elements Required to be a Classified as a Burglary

While many people assume theft or larceny are the motives behind burglary, neither theft nor larceny are required for burglary charges. Physical breaking and entering is also not required to constitute a burglary.

What are the three elements required to constitute a burglary?

  1. Unauthorized or unlawful entry: Whether the entry involves physical force – like picking a lock or breaking a window – or constructive methods of entry – like blackmail or fraud – both can be considered unlawful or unauthorized if it is done without the consent of the person occupying the property. Entry can be minimal as well, like stepping inside an open door or sticking a coat hanger through a mail slot. The premises must be closed to the public at the time to be considered burglary.
  2. into a building or occupied structure: This encompasses any structure, vehicle or place adapted for housing people or animals, sheltering property or doing business inside. Abandoned buildings generally do not qualify in a burglary case, but can merit other legal charges, such as trespassing.
  3. with the intent to commit a crime: This element scrutinizes the motive of the individual who committed the burglary. To be convicted of burglary, the defendant must have purposed to commit a crime prior to entering the building. The crime need not be completed for this element to be met.

Four Degrees of Burglary Charges

There are four degrees of charges for burglary based upon different factors. First-, second- and third-degree burglary charges all earn felony penalties. The differing factors are based upon whether the burglar is armed, if an assault is committed or planned, if drug or other theft is intended.

Fourth-degree burglary is the only burglary charged considered a misdemeanor because the unlawful entry and/or theft occurs in a fenced areas connected to businesses or homes.

Burglary convictions may result in significant consequences. Each burglary charge carries a varying penalty based on the degree of the charge. First-, second- and third-degree burglary charges earn prison time ranging from up to 20 years through up to 10 years in prison. Fourth-degree burglary could earn up to three years in prison. Additional penalties include fines, potential probation, fees, community service and more.

Possession of burglar tools or instruments of crime with the intent of using them to commit a crime also merits a first-degree misdemeanor. Penalties include up to five years in prison and fines.

If you or a loved one have been accused of burglary, contact a criminal law attorney immediately. Whether the charges are merited or you have been falsely accused, immediately contacting a criminal defense lawyer may save you from prison time and money spent paying significant fines.

Defense to a Burglary Charge

If you have been charged with burglary, a strong defense is critical. There are a variety of approaches to consider and an experienced criminal defense lawyer will guide you toward the best options for your case.

The most common burglary defense is a claim of innocence, which asserts the defendant did not commit the burglary acts in question. Other defense tactics include arguing lack of intent to commit a crime, admitting fault while arguing that the behavior does not constitute a crime or claiming someone entrapped you, convincing you to commit a crime you otherwise would not have.

It is in your best interest to fight criminal charges of burglary. The best defense for a burglary charge comes from the expertise and long-term experience found in a criminal defense attorney. Do not face these significant charges on your own.

The Importance of a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer

When charged with a criminal offense, like burglary, the expertise and experience of a good criminal defense lawyer is critical. Criminal defense lawyers’ experience in the field of criminal law gives them valuable insight on criminal cases and how to best anticipate and prepare for challenges.

A good, local criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania will be able to advise you on the specifics of Pennsylvania burglary laws and directly impact many facets of a charge.

Criminal Defense Attorney George Lepley, Jr. and the criminal defense attorneys at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC have represented thousands of individuals and have won acquittals or reduced sentences in many cases.

Attorney Lepley has handled thousands of criminal offense cases, represented individuals on virtually every type of criminal charge in Pennsylvania, and has represented individuals throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, New Jersey and in Federal Court.

Your case will be well represented if you choose Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC. Contact us today!


140 East Third Street, Williamsport (570) 323-3768
320 Market Street, Lewisburg (570) 522-0505
Northern Tier Pennsylvania (570) 673-4081
(800) 422-5396
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