Pittsburgh Burglary Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with burglary, you may be concerned about the consequences of conviction.  In Pennsylvania, burglary is a serious criminal offense that is prosecuted as a first-degree felony in most cases, though under some circumstances, the offense will be downgraded to a second-degree felony.  You could potentially be exposed to up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.

We encourage you to seek out comprehensive legal representation for your defense, as the stakes are high.  Your life could be fundamentally impacted by a conviction.  Contact McKinney Law to request a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Pittsburgh burglary defense attorney.

What is the Basis for a Burglary Offense Under Pennsylvania Law?

Burglary is defined in Section 3502 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.  The statute establishes guilt for burglary when a person:

  1. Enters a building or occupied structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof;
  2. With intent to commit a crime therein; and
  3. Without authority, license, or privilege to enter.

How Burglary is Prosecuted

Burglary is prosecuted as a first-degree felony with penalties that include up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines.  It will be reduced to a felony of the second-degree if the building, structure, or portion entered is not adapted for overnight accommodation and if no individual is present at the time of entry.  For example, if you burglarize an office after-hours (and no individual is present), the burglary offense will likely be prosecuted as a felony of the second-degree, with penalties of up to 10 years of incarceration and up to $25,000 in fines.

It should be noted, however, that burglary is often associated with other criminal charges as well.  For example, if you enter a neighbor’s house without authorization in order to steal their television, you could be charged with both burglary and the underlying offense -- in this case, theft.

When developing a case strategy for defending against a burglary charge, your Pittsburgh burglary defense attorney will take the underlying offense into consideration.  In Pennsylvania, you cannot be convicted of both burglary and its underlying criminal offense (except in circumstances where the underlying criminal offense qualifies as a first-degree or second-degree felony).

For example, if you are charged with burglary and theft of items worth less than $2,000, it may be better to negotiate a plea bargain in which you plead to theft instead of burglary.  Why?  Burglary is a first-degree felony offense, while theft of items worth less than $2,000 is a third-degree felony offense.  The penalties will therefore be significantly less.

Defenses to Burglary

Lack of Intent to Commit a Crime

In Pennsylvania, a burglary conviction requires that the defendant “intend” to commit a crime on the premises.  If you lack the intent to commit a crime, you cannot be held liable for burglary.  For example, if you made an unauthorized entry into the victim’s house, but you did not intend to commit a crime or do anything else illegal in the house (i.e., perhaps you were just looking for an item that you left at their house during a party), you may be able to avoid punishment.

Lacking intent may lead to your offense being downgraded to criminal trespass, which typically involves less severe penalties.

Authorized to Enter Premises

In order to find you liable for burglary, the prosecution must be able to show that you were not authorized to enter the premises at the time.  If the premises was open to the public, or if you were granted consent to enter (or if you were otherwise licensed or privileged to enter the premises), you cannot be held liable for burglary.

Abandoned Structure

It is an absolute defense to burglary if the building or structure that the defendant entered was abandoned at the time of entry.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Skilled Pittsburgh Burglary Defense Attorney at McKinney Law

Ready to discuss your burglary case with a qualified Pennsylvania attorney?  We can help.

At McKinney Law, our attorneys have extensive experience assisting criminal defendants throughout Pennsylvania in a range of challenging disputes, including those that involve burglary charges and multiple-offense violations.  We have the strategic knowledge necessary to effectively contend with prosecutors, preventing them from taking advantage of the overwhelming anxiety that you may be feeling.

Though burglary is a serious criminal offense in Pennsylvania, it’s possible to avoid liability (or minimize the punishment significantly).  Our attorneys are well prepared for the prospect of litigation.  We will not allow you to be intimidated into relinquishing any of your rights.

Contact McKinney Law to schedule a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation with seasoned Pittsburgh burglary defense attorney Randall McKinney  -- we encourage you to call (412) 520-3301 or submit a case evaluation form through our website to request an appointment today