Over 30 Arrested Following Looting in Philadelphia – Criminal Trespass vs. Burglary—What is the difference?
Philadelphia once again made national headlines for the wrong reasons when hundreds of adults and juveniles looted stores throughout the city. Crime in Philadelphia continues to skyrocket, especially in Center City, West, and South Philadelphia. Citing theft and violent crimes, specifically among the youth population, major retailers such as Wawa, Starbucks, and CVS have closed multiple locations in the City while expanding operations in Southern New Jersey and the Pennsylvania suburbs.
What caused these incidents in Philadelphia?
While there was no alleged cause for the incidents, they did all occur after a Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge dismissed a murder charge against a police officer.
Police Officer Mark Dial had been charged with the alleged murder of Philadelphia resident Eddie Irizarry. Police denied that the cause of the destruction derived from the Irizarry case but it appears that it was organized over social media and Irizarry’s family did issue a statement. There appears to be no other cause for the mass looting as the only other event that occurred prior to these crimes was the Philadelphia Philles clinching a spot in the Major League Baseball Playoffs.
Those arrested in Philadelphia now face criminal charges of criminal trespass and burglary. This case presents an opportunity to explain the elements of these offenses and possible penalties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where our criminal defense law firm represents persons charged with these offenses.
If you or a friend was charged with one of these incidents, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer immediately! These are serious charges and you could face jail and possibly state prison if convicted.
Criminal Trespass and Burglary are felony crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Criminal trespass and burglary are felony offenses, but trespass can also be a misdemeanor offense and a summary offense in Pennsylvania. Criminal trespass (unlicensed entry of a structure) can be graded as an indictable offense (felony) in New Jersey, as well as a disorderly person’s offense in the state.
It is important to keep in mind that criminal trespass and burglary require the burden of the Commonwealth (State) to be beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the defense isn’t required to do anything, but the prosecution (district attorney) must prove each and every element of these crimes to establish a conviction.
What is Criminal Trespass?
Criminal trespass illegally entering, as well as obtaining access to a facility or structure with any type of force (breaking), surreptitiously (secretly) or by subterfuge (deceit). In these situations, criminal trespass is a felony crime. It is a felony of the 2nd degree if forced is used to enter and a felony of the 3rd degree if entry is made by subterfuge or deceit. (Title 18, Section 3503)
In addition, criminal trespass is also ignoring signs posted (“no trespassing”), as well as ignoring verbal commands to leave or stay off the premises. In these situations, a person will be charged with misdemeanor offense (3rd degree) in Pennsylvania or possibly summary offenses in the Commonwealth.
With regards to New Jersey, often refers to trespass as “unlicensed entry of a structure” and it is considered a crimes of the 4th degree (2C:18-3). A defiant trespasser or simple trespasser would commit a disorderly person’s offense
What is Burglary?
Burglary is a felony offense in Pennsylvania (Title 18, Section 3502) and an indictable offense in New Jersey (2C: 18-2). There are degrees of burglary in both of these jurisdictions and burglary is an illegal entry (trespass) combined with an intent to commit a crime with once within the premises.
In most situations the crime committed is a theft, but it can also include other crimes, like aggravated assault, simple assault, as well as any sex based offenses. In New Jersey, burglary is a crime of the second degree if the crime is committed with an intent to cause or causing serious bodily injury. It can be graded as a felony of the first or second degree in Pennsylvania
What is a defense to Criminal Trespass or Burglary?
If you’re charged with criminal trespass or burglary it is important that your criminal defense lawyer consider possible offenses such as co-ownership, access to the property in a form of keys as well as verbal or written authorization from a property owner or property supervisor.
Again, the defense is not required to make any argument as the burden in on the Commonwealth, but if Prosecution establishes entry at trial or at a pre-trial Motion or hearing, the defense may need to assert a possible defense to avoid a conviction.
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