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What Constitutes Burglary and Why Is It Misunderstood?

Burglary is a common property crime in Pennsylvania. Many people confuse burglary with other property crimes that are related. If you are facing burglary charges, you should get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. We can review your case and talk to you about the defenses that might be available to you. Here is some information about burglaries, trespasses, and home invasions and how they are related to each other.

What is a burglary in Pennsylvania?

Burglary is defined under 18 Pa. C.S. § 3502. Under this law, a burglary occurs when a person enters a building or occupied structure illegally while having the intent to commit a crime inside. A burglary can be charged whether a person was present or not.

The prosecutor is required to prove the elements of a burglary offense beyond a reasonable doubt if the case is taken to trial. The prosecutor will be required to show that the defendant entered the building and did so while having the intent to commit a different crime inside. If the prosecutor is unable to prove one of the elements of a burglary offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor might be able to win a conviction for a different crime such as trespass. However, he or she will not be able to secure a conviction for burglary.

Entry into a building

Entry into a building or occupied structure is the first element of a burglary offense. To be convicted, you will have to have entered the building or structure without permission from the property’s owner or operator. Pennsylvania does not include situations in which defendants legally enter buildings but remain inside after they should have left in the burglary law. For example, a person who lawfully entered a department store while the store was opened and hid inside to steal something after the store closes does not meet the unlawful entry element of a burglary offense in Pennsylvania.

Unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime

The intent to commit a crime following the unlawful entry into a building is the second element of a burglary offense that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. This element concerns the state of mind of the defendant at the time that he or she illegally entered the building or structure. To be convicted of a burglary offense, you must have decided to commit a criminal offense and entered the building illegally to do so. You do not have to be successful in committing the intended crime. If you unlawfully enter a building with criminal intent, the two elements of burglary will be met, and you may be convicted.

Penalties for burglary

Burglary is a felony offense. The degree of the offense will vary, depending on the circumstances of the offense. For instance, if another person was inside the building at the time of the burglary, it will be a first-degree felony. If no one was present at the time, and the building was not a residence, it will be a second-degree felony.

Statutory defenses to burglary

The burglary statute contains three defenses, including the following:

  • The building was abandoned
  • The building was open to the public at the time of entry or
  • The defendant was privileged or licensed to enter.

In addition to the statutory defenses, there may be others available to you. Your attorney can help to identify possible defenses in your case.

Home invasion vs. burglary

A home invasion is not separate from a burglary. Instead, it specifically refers to a burglary that happens in a home. A home invasion has the same elements of a burglary but is punished more harshly. If someone was at home during the invasion, it is a first-degree felony.

Possessing burglary tools

Pennsylvania law also makes it illegal to possess burglary tools to use them or to knowingly allow someone else to use them in a burglary. Some examples of burglary tools include crowbars or false keys to illegally enter a room or an object like a safe. Under 18 Pa. C.S. § 4904, a conviction for possession of burglary tools can result in up to three years in prison, a fine of $1,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Criminal trespass vs. burglary

Criminal trespass in Pennsylvania is defined in 18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 3503. It occurs when someone unlawfully enters private property without permission or authority to do so. Trespass might occur when someone has been ordered by a court to stay away from the property, when someone enters despite a clearly posted sign, when someone enters through a locked gate, or by using subterfuge to enter.

someone unlawfully enters private property without permission

There are several types of criminal trespass in Pennsylvania that depend on the intent of the defendant and the type of property. A defiant trespass occurs when someone enters a property in spite of actual notice prohibiting trespassing. A simple trespass occurs when someone enters the private property to cause damage or to harass the owner. Agricultural trespass occurs when someone enters the land to bother the owner or cause damage. Finally, agricultural biosecurity trespass involves trespassing into areas of agricultural biosecurity. The penalties for trespass vary and can include jail or prison, a fine, or both.

In some burglary cases, a prosecutor might charge a burglary offense together with criminal trespass. The prosecutor might do this to try to secure a conviction if the prosecutor has trouble proving the intent element of the burglary crime.

Talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer

If you are facing charges of burglary, trespass, possession of burglary tools, or something else, you should get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer at DiCindio Law can evaluate the evidence in your case and discuss the different options that you might have. Schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling us at 610.430.3535.

Is there a difference between theft, robbery, and burglary in Pennsylvania?

Many Pennsylvanians confuse theft, robbery, and burglary. If you are unclear about the differences between these three crimes, you need to learn what they are. Understanding these offenses can help you to avoid being charged with one of them. If you have been arrested and charged with one of these offenses, contact DiCindio Law to learn about your charges and the defenses that might be available to you.

Theft in Pennsylvania

You can be charged with theft if you unlawfully take or exercise control over the moveable property of someone else when you have the intent to deprive him or her permanently of that property. Theft offenses differ from robbery and burglary because they don’t involve making threats to others or trespassing on the property of others. Under the theft law, the property includes anything that has value, and the moveable property is the property that can be moved from one location to another.

Theft by deception

Theft by deception involves obtaining or withholding someone else’s property through the use of deception. With this type of theft, the owner gives you control of the property because of your deception. This might include situations in which you create or reinforce a false impression about the value of the item, your intent regarding the item, or the law. It can also include your failure to correct a false impression that you have created or reinforced.

Theft by extortion

Theft by extortion involves you taking or withholding someone else’s property by threat. The threat that you make might include a threat to commit a crime, a threat to accuse someone else of a crime, a threat to expose a secret, a threat to take official action, a threat to testify in a legal case, or other types of threats that are meant to blackmail the victim.

Theft of mislaid property

Theft of mislaid property involves finding some property that has been lost and keeping it for yourself. This could include finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk and pocketing it instead of taking steps to find its rightful owner. You are required to take steps to find the rightful owner and to wait a specific amount of time before you can lawfully claim the property.

There are many other types of theft, including receiving stolen property, shoplifting, theft of trade secrets, theft of services, and others. If you have been charged with any type of theft, you need to talk to a lawyer at DiCindio Law.

Burglary charges in Pennsylvania

Burglary is considered to be a trespass offense instead of a theft offense. A person commits a burglary when he or she trespasses on the property of another person or business with the intent to commit a crime. Even if you did not enter a home with the intent to steal, you can still be charged with burglary if you intended to commit any other crime. You can be charged with burglary when someone is present and when someone is not present. You can also be charged with burglary when you enter a home or a business.

Robbery charges in Pennsylvania

Robbery is the most serious theft offense. Two types of robbery are recognized in Pennsylvania, including general robbery and force used in the theft of a motor vehicle, which is called robbery of a motor vehicle. You may be charged with a robbery if you threatened another person or injured him or her while you committed a theft. Robbery can also occur when you use force to take something away from someone else such as during a mugging.

Armed robbery involves using a knife, gun, or fake weapon to commit the offense. If you injure the other person, you may also be charged with aggravated assault.

Potential defenses to theft, robbery, and burglary

The Pennsylvania penal code contains some statutory defenses to theft, burglary, and robbery. In addition, other defenses might be available to you. Some of the defenses that you might raise include the following:

  • Self-defense or defense of others such as when you take a gun away from someone to protect yourself and others
  • Preventing a serious crime
  • Necessity
  • Duress
  • Involuntary intoxication
  • Insanity
  • Entrapment

You may also have a defense available to you if you did not intend to permanently deprive someone of their property to a theft charge. For example, if you borrowed something from someone with the intent to return the property, you will have a defense to a theft charge. It is also a defense if you are charged with taking the property of another when you believe that the property is yours. This will require you to present evidence showing why you had a good faith belief that you owned the property.

At DiCindio Law, we understand the rules, laws, and procedures that are needed to defend our clients who are charged with all types of theft offenses as well as with robbery or burglary offenses. We work to stay current with changes in the law so that we are better able to present strong defenses for our clients.

Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with theft, robbery, or burglary, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You should treat all criminal charges seriously because they can result in lengthy jail or prison sentences, stiff fines, restitution, and other penalties. Even after you have completed your sentence, having a conviction for theft, burglary, or robbery on your criminal record can cause long-lasting collateral consequences. You may have trouble finding employment or housing. By getting help from an attorney at DiCindio Law, you might increase your chances of achieving a successful outcome. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.

DiCindio Law, LLC opens newly renovated West Chester Office

DiCindio Law, LLC opens newly renovated West Chester Office building.

Located in downtown West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania and built in 1900 – the firm’s building has undergone a top to bottom renovation/restoration with the idea of preserving and repairing the building to the beauty it once was and providing Mike’s client’s with a comfortable and accessible office location and atmosphere.

Mike DiCindio looks forward to continuing to serve his current and future client’s for years to come at this new location.

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Possessing Instruments of Crimes

When an object or weapon is involved in the commission of a criminal offense, a common charge that will be levied against an individual is that of “Possessing Instruments of Crimes.” This charge is found in title 18 section 907 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code.

What must be evaluated in these cases is whether or not the person intended to employ any instrument of crime in a criminal manner. Importantly, there need not be what is generally termed as a “weapon” in order to be found guilty of this offense. Unlike what most may generally think – a knife or a gun, an instrument of crime is defined as anything that fits with in the following definitions. First, anything specifically made or specifically adapted for criminal use. Second, anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses that it may have.  Finally, anything commonly used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.

An example of a situation where a normal everyday object may be viewed as an instrument of crime would be when a crowbar is used to break into somebody’s home or vehicle. That is not the lawful and intended purpose of a crowbar therefore it would fit under the definition of this crime.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or are the subject of a case where Possession of an Instrument of Crime is charged contact Mike DiCindio, Esq. and DiCindio Law, LLC directly today.

 

  • 907.  Possessing instruments of crime.

(a)  Criminal instruments generally.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses any instrument of crime with intent to employ it criminally.

(b)  Possession of weapon.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a firearm or other weapon concealed upon his person with intent to employ it criminally.

(c)  Unlawful body armor.–A person commits a felony of the third degree if in the course of the commission of a felony or in the attempt to commit a felony he uses or wears body armor or has in his control, custody or possession any body armor.

(d)  Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

“Body armor.”  Any protective covering for the body, or parts thereof, made of any polyaramid fiber or any resin-treated glass fiber cloth or any material or combination of materials made or designed to prevent, resist, deflect or deter the penetration thereof by ammunition, knife, cutting or piercing instrument or any other weapon.

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“Instrument of crime.”  Any of the following:

(1)  Anything specially made or specially adapted for criminal use.

(2)  Anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.

“Weapon.”  Anything readily capable of lethal use and possessed under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses which it may have. The term includes a firearm which is not loaded or lacks a clip or other component to render it immediately operable, and components which can readily be assembled into a weapon.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

Robbery or Burglary in Pennsylvania

 

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Chester County Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael D. DiCindio, Esq.

Many people commonly describe their home being broken into as “them getting robbed.” What many do not know is that, generally, this scenario in Pennsylvania is legally a Burglary.   Whether a crime is a robbery or a burglary in Pennsylvania boils down to the specific facts involved. A burglary in Pennsylvania occurs when an individual enters a building without permission and with the intent to commit a crime within. A robbery in Pennsylvania is able to be boiled down to a person using some level of force, or threat of force, during the course of committing a theft. Therefore, if your home is broken into, and your things are stolen, but you are not there or involved – you were not “robbed.”

There, of course, are different factual scenarios that would fit each crime depending on the circumstances, further, there are different variations within the statutes for each (the statutes can be found below). In the end, it is important to know that whether you or someone you love has been charged with robbery or burglary in Pennsylvania and the differences between each.  The defenses differ for both, but there is no doubt they are facing heavy potential penalties and a felony being on their record. Contact DiCindio Law, LLC to speak to Mike DiCindio directly and begin preparing your defense today.

 

18 Pa.C.S § 3701.  Robbery.

(a)  Offense defined.

(1)  A person is guilty of robbery if, in the course of committing a theft, he:

(i)  inflicts serious bodily injury upon another;

(ii)  threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate serious bodily injury;

(iii)  commits or threatens immediately to commit any felony of the first or second degree;

(iv)  inflicts bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear of immediate bodily injury;

(v)  physically takes or removes property from the person of another by force however slight; or

(vi)  takes or removes the money of a financial institution without the permission of the financial institution by making a demand of an employee of the financial institution orally or in writing with the intent to deprive the financial institution thereof.

(2)  An act shall be deemed “in the course of committing a theft” if it occurs in an attempt to commit theft or in flight after the attempt or commission.

(3)  For purposes of this subsection, a “financial institution” means a bank, trust company, savings trust, credit union or similar institution.

 

18 Pa.C.S. § 3502.  Burglary.

(a)  Offense defined.–A person commits the offense of burglary if, with the intent to commit a crime therein, the person:

(1)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense any person is present;

(2)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense no person is present;

(3)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is not adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense any person is present; or

(4)  enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof that is not adapted for overnight accommodations in which at the time of the offense no person is present.

(b)  Defense.–It is a defense to prosecution for burglary if any of the following exists at the time of the commission of the offense:

(1)  The building or structure was abandoned.

(2)  The premises are open to the public.

(3)  The actor is licensed or privileged to enter.


 

The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale