Understanding Burglary Laws In The Philadelphia Area
Pennsylvania burglary laws can be difficult to understand. There are different degrees of burglary charges depending on your intentions, whether you had a weapon, and if you tried to steal or harm anyone who was present in the home or building. Our experts are here to help you understand the burglary laws in the Philadelphia area.
Types of burglary charges
In Pennsylvania, burglary cases are broken down into four separate degrees that are determined by the seriousness of the offense.
1st degree burglary
First degree burglary is defined by unlawfully entering a home or building with the intention of committing a crime against a resident or the property itself.
You’ll likely be charged with first degree burglary if you are armed with a deadly weapon or harm someone on the property. Otherwise, an attorney could argue your actual intent. The maximum sentence for first degree burglary is twenty years in prison.
2nd degree burglary
If you unlawfully enter a home or building with the intention of stealing or physical violence, you could be charged with second degree burglary. Since the criterion is similar to that of first degree burglary, your intent could be argued, but other factors will also be taken into account.
The charge of second degree burglary is based on any previous convictions, preponderance of evidence, and any crimes that you actually committed while inside. Second degree burglary has a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
3rd degree burglary
Third degree burglary usually pertains to domestic disputes where a person unlawfully enters a home without the intention of theft or violence. Just the mere unauthorized entry into the building constitutes a burglary charge.
Third degree burglary also carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
4th degree burglary
If you unlawfully enter a fenced-in yard with- or sometimes even without- the intention of stealing, you could still be charged with fourth degree burglary. Although this is a misdemeanor charge, you could still face a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Theft from a motor vehicle
In most states, burglary is defined by breaking into any type of structure, vehicle, or even a railroad car. However, Pennsylvania only considers burglaries to be breaking into homes and buildings.
Car burglaries fall under a separate law: theft from a motor vehicle. If you’ve been caught breaking into a car, you could be looking at a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
How an attorney can help
If you’ve been charged with burglary or theft from a motor vehicle, you’re going to need the help of a Philadelphia criminal defense law firm. An attorney could argue your intent and even attempt to prove that you had a legal right to enter the building.
If you have a legitimate defense, they can advise you to plead not guilty and represent you at trial. Even if you are guilty, you still have a fighting chance with the help of an experienced lawyer. They can negotiate bail and arrange a plea bargain with the district attorney to get you the least amount of jail time possible.
Don’t lose ten to twenty years of your life over a bad decision or misunderstanding. If you’re facing a burglary charge in Pennsylvania, contact our law firm for a consultation today!