The District Attorney for Lancaster County is arguing that persons convicted of burglary should receive longer sentences. According to a news report, Craig Stedman, the Lancaster District Attorney, bemoans the fact that convicted burglars may be incarcerated for only a few months, and that this leniency does not deter violent criminals from victimizing random individuals. Stedman argues that there is a recent trend concerning home burglaries that are very violent in nature and often ends in the death of a victim. Stedman explains that the issue will only worsen as drug addicts try to get money to support their addictions. Therefore, Stedman called for support for HB 2018, which would provide for minimum sentences of five years for those convicted of burglary using a weapon and ten years of jail for those who victimize persons at least sixty-two years old and above.
Burglary Defined in Criminal Code
The Pennsylvania criminal code defines burglary as the unlawful entry into the private property of another with the intention of performing another crime inside. Law enforcement and prosecutors, to achieve a conviction of burglary, have the burden of proving to the jury that the defendant charged with the crime entered the property without lawful permission to enter beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, the prosecution is also required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant possessed the intent to perform a criminal offense inside the building and entered the property to do so. Under the code, the defendant does not have to perform the intended crime successfully in the building or otherwise complete the offense. Simply entering unlawfully with the required criminal intent is enough for the prosecution to achieve a conviction.
The Pennsylvania penal code considers burglary as a felony, and the penalties depend on the circumstances of the offense. If another person aside from an accomplice of the defendant was I present inside the building at the time of the crime, then prosecutors may charge a defendant with a first-degree felony. Under the Pennsylvania criminal code, such felonies are punishable by up to twenty years of incarceration. However, the code does not provide for any minimum sentencing requirements. The prosecution is limited to charging a defendant with a second-degree felony if the building is not a dwelling place and no one else was inside during the crime. Under the criminal code, second-degree felonies may result up to ten years of incarceration. Similarly, there are no minimum sentencing requirements under the code for such a crime.
It is also important to note that prosecutors may also charge defendants separately for committing or attempting to commit another crime inside the private property. Therefore, defendants facing burglary charges may also face additional charges and their potential sentences for any crimes they commit or attempt to commit inside someone else’s property.
Entry into Private Property
If prosecutors cannot prove a defendant’s intent to commit a separate crime inside someone else’s property but can show that they entered unlawfully, they may bring a lesser charge of trespassing. The Pennsylvania criminal code defines this offense as knowingly entering private property without legal authority to do so. If the building had a clear sign prohibiting entry, a person who enters through a locked door or gate, or through deceptive means, may be committing criminal trespass.
If you are facing burglary charges in anywhere in the Central Pennsylvania area, you should contact the law firm of Coover & Associates by calling 717-885-5830 for a free initial case evaluation. We have extensive experience in criminal cases and can provide you with advice on how to mount an effective defense against a burglary charge. You can also reach us by submitting our online message form.