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Understanding the difference between burglary and trespassing

| Dec 28, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

There can be overlap between different property crimes. Take trespassing and burglary. Both are criminal offenses that involve unauthorized entry onto someone else’s property.

Despite some superficial similarities, however, trespassing and burglary are not the same. The differences inform the potential penalties for each.

Intent

A person commits criminal trespass in New York state by knowingly entering a building or real property unlawfully or remaining there without permission. While burglary involves illegal entry onto a property as well, there must also be an intention to commit a felony offense while there.

In other words, burglary is the intentional unlawful entry onto the property for the purpose of committing another crime. Trespassing, on the other hand, requires no intent other than to violate the law by one’s presence.

Severity

Burglary is a more serious offense than trespassing. For example, in New York, third-degree criminal trespass is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, as well as one-year probation or three months’ imprisonment.

Burglary charges can range in severity. However, burglary is a felony in any case, which means that it is a more serious charge than trespassing, and the potential penalties are harsher as well.

For example, second-degree burglary involves not only entering a dwelling unlawfully but causing injury to a resident or guest or brandishing a deadly weapon. Burglary in the second degree is a class C felony, punishable by a fine not exceeding either $5,000 or double the amount gained as a result of the alleged offense, in addition to a term of incarceration or probation.

A conviction on burglary charges requires that the prosecution prove that the entry was unlawful and the intent was to commit a crime.

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