Criminal Defense Attorneys
In Pennsylvania, burglary is treated as a very serious felony offense. If you are charged with burglary and are convicted of the offense, you could spend decades in prison and be ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Getting prompt help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law is important when you have been charged with burglary.
Even if you are convicted and complete your sentence, you will be left with a criminal record that could result in ongoing collateral consequences. A burglary conviction can cause problems for you when you are searching for a home or job or when you try to apply for credit. If you are sent to prison, being away from your family and friends can also harm your relationships. A burglary defense lawyer might help you to evaluate your case and find problems in the evidence that the Commonwealth is using against you so that a better outcome might be obtained.
What Is Burglary?
Burglary is defined in 18 Pa. C.S. 3502. Under this statute, a burglary happens when a person enters a home or building with the intent to commit a criminal offense whether or not someone else might be present at the time of the entry.
A burglary occurs when a person has an intent to commit a crime inside of a building or home and makes an entry in the following ways:
- Entry into a home or building that allows overnight accommodation with a threat, attempt, or commission of a bodily injury to an occupant
- Entry into a home or building that allows overnight accommodation when any person is present
- Entry into a home or building that allows overnight accommodation when no person is present
- Entry into a home or building that does not allow overnight accommodation when a person is present
- Entry into a home or building that does not allow overnight accommodation when no person is present
Prosecutor's Burden of Proof
To secure a conviction for burglary, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of burglary beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor cannot prove one of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor will not secure a conviction. A skilled Pennsylvania burglary attorney might work to introduce reasonable doubt into a client’s burglary case to hold the prosecutor to his or her burden of proof. If your defense lawyer can show that there is reasonable doubt, the prosecutor might agree to make a favorable plea offer. In some cases, a defense lawyer might fight the charges through trial to try to win a dismissal.
For example, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to commit a crime other than the entry itself to prove that you committed a burglary. If you did not intend to commit a crime when you entered a building but subsequently discovered something that you tried to steal, there might not be enough evidence of your intent. Proving what someone else intended can be difficult for prosecutors.
What Are The Penalties For A Burglary Conviction?
In most cases, burglary is a first-degree felony. However, it is a second-degree felony if the building that you entered was not a home, did not allow for overnight accommodations, and was unoccupied at the time of the entry. However, if you entered an unoccupied building for the purpose of stealing drugs, then it will be charged as a first-degree felony. If you are convicted of first-degree felony burglary, you will face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. If you are convicted of second-degree felony burglary, you will face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
A first-degree burglary conviction will also count as one strike under Pennsylvania’s three-strikes law. If you have two prior strikes for violent crimes, your conviction could result in a sentence of a minimum of 25 years up to life in prison.
Other Charges In Burglary Cases
If the crime that you intended to commit when you entered the building or home was another first- or second-degree felony, you could be charged and sentenced for that separate offense as well. However, if you entered a building or home with the intent to commit a lesser offense, you will not be sentenced for that crime in addition to the burglary offense. If you did intend to commit a first- or second-degree felony at the time that you entered the home or building, you could be sentenced for both offenses. The judge could order the sentences to be served consecutively, greatly increasing the length of your potential sentence.
Defenses To Burglary Charges In Pennsylvania
Even if you are charged with burglary, you may have several defenses available to you. Your lawyer will discuss what happened with you and explain the legal options that might be available.
The burglary statute lists a few defenses, including the following:
- The home or building was abandoned.
- The building was open to the public.
- The defendant had permission to enter.
In addition to these statutory defenses to burglary, there might be other defenses available to you. For example, if you were charged a long time after the burglary happened, your lawyer might challenge any eyewitness identification that was used to secure your arrest and charge you. Other defenses might include having an alibi or lacking the intent to commit a different crime. In the latter case, your lack of intent to commit a crime might not be enough to avoid charges. However, it could result in a reduction of your charges to a criminal trespass instead of a burglary.
How Do I Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me For A Burglary Charge?
If you are convicted of burglary, it can devastate your professional and personal life. Getting help from an experienced defense lawyer might allow you to minimize the impact of a conviction. You should never try to handle a first- or second-degree felony in Pennsylvania on your own. Contact DiCindio Law today to learn about your options by calling us at 610.430.3535.