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What goes into a burglary charge?

On Behalf of | Mar 23, 2023 | Criminal Defense

You may be familiar with the criminal charge of burglary, but not be aware of exactly what that means under Pennsylvania law. And in fact, burglary is a crime that many people misunderstand.

In order to mount a successful criminal defense, it’s crucial to understand every element of a burglary charge.

A full definition of burglary

There are three main elements in the charge of burglary. All of them must be satisfied for an act to meet the standard.

Those elements are: An unauthorized entry, whether breaking and entering or not; The offender making entry into a structure of some kind; The intent to commit a crime while doing so.

Keep in mind that an act that only satisfies one or two of those conditions does not rise to the level of burglary. Though this doesn’t mean that a person could not be charged with other crimes for that act.

Common misconceptions about a burglary charge

For many people, burglary could be informally defined as breaking into a home or business in order to steal something. But there are multiple problems with that definition from a legal standpoint.

First off all, a person doesn’t need to be stealing to be charge with burglary. This means that a prosecution would not necessarily have to prove something was stolen to win a burglary case.

Another common mistake is believing that burglary only applies to a home or a store/business. If a person makes unlawful entry into any structure, they can be charged with burglary.

Finally, it’s not necessary for a person to break and enter. Even unlawfully walking through an open door can qualify for a burglary charge. And sticking a hand through a door or window can qualify as a burglary as well.

Burglary is a well-known but little understood criminal charge. Understanding the three elements of a burglary charge can inform a defense and help you make the right choices.