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Pennsylvania Burglary Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Burglary Laws

Pennsylvania law defines burglary as entering any portion of a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside, unless the premises are open to the public at the time or the defendant is allowed to enter. The important element to note is that the defendant must have the intent to commit some kind of crime once he/she has entered the building. It does not matter whether or not the planned crime actually took place. If the defendant had the intent to commit it after entering the building or structure, then a burglary has been committed. Also, it does not require that any physical breaking and entering has occurred. The door to the building may have been left wide open and the defendant could have just stepped inside freely.

    Example: Bob enters into Joe's home through his open front door intending to steal Joe's television. Once inside, Bob thinks he hears someone inside the house and decides not to take the television. He turns around and leaves right through the door. Bob has committed burglary.

If the defendant commits a crime in addition to burglary at the time of his/her offense, the defendant may only be charged with burglary and not the crime committed once he/she was inside. However, if that crime constituted a first or second degree felony, then that may be charged separately and the defendant may be convicted of both burglary as well as the criminal charge for the felony crime committed inside the structure or building.

    Example: If Bob enters Joe's home with the intent to commit an assault with a deadly weapon on Joe and he does so, Bob can be charged with burglary and assault with a deadly weapon (a first degree felony). However, if Bob entered Joe's home with the intent to commit a petty theft, such as, take the $10 bill that he saw Joe drop on the floor, Bob can only be charged with burglary, but not with petty theft.

Defenses to Burglary Charges

  • The building or structure was abandoned
  • Lack of intent to commit a crime inside the building or structure
  • Premises were open to the public at the time
  • The defendant had a license to enter the property
  • Consent of owner of property

Penalties and Sentences

Burglary in Pennsylvania is a first degree felony and may carry a jail sentence of up to twenty years in prison. However, if the building or structure that the defendant entered was not meant for overnight accommodation and no one was inside at the time of the defendant's entry, it may only be a second degree felony. This carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison. The judge may use his/her discretion and add a fine to the penalty as well.

Pennsylvania Burglary Statute

Pennsylvania Burglary Statute
Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 18, Section 3502

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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