What is the difference between criminal trespass and burglary in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals arrested and charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Frequently, we handle cases involving trespassing along with the felony charge of burglary. While terms trespassing and burglary sometimes used together, there is a substantial difference between these two criminal charges 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
Do you have 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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