Recently, a person broke into a home and a barn in Jefferson County, even though it did not appear that they took anything. The police are still investigating the incident and the suspects are still unknown. It is natural to assume that breaking into a home is considered burglary in Pennsylvania, and it is. However, the story raises the question of whether breaking into a barn is thought of as burglary, too. According to the Pennsylvania statutes and the Pennsylvania Superior Court, it is.
Defining Burglary and Home Invasion in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Statutes define burglary as entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime once inside.
A home is of course, a type of building, but when a person breaks into a home with the intent to commit a crime, it is considered a home invasion. Home invasion is not a separate crime in Pennsylvania, but it is considered a type of burglary. When someone is inside a home at the time it is burglarized, the offense remains the same but the penalties a person will face are much harsher.
Breaking into a home is an obvious type of burglary. The question of whether entering barns, sheds, and other detached structures without permission is considered burglary is one that is often debated in the courts. In August of 2020, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling that clarified the issue.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court
In September of 2019, a man was convicted of burglary after entering a shed that was detached from a home. When appearing before the Superior Court, the defendant argued against the burglary conviction, stating that the shed was not occupied because it was not outfitted for overnight accommodation. That is, the shed was not set up in a manner that would allow someone to live in it.
The prosecution conceded on this point, but then argued that it was still a building under the definition provided by the state’s statutes. After referring to Black’s Law Dictionary, the Superior Court determined that a building was a structure that had a roof and walls. After making this distinction, the Court did not overturn the original conviction of burglary.
Given the definition by state law and the Superior Court, it is clear that a shed, barn, or garage is still considered a building even when it is detached. As such, anyone that is found breaking into these structures will still likely face charges of burglary. A conviction for first-degree felony burglary carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a second-degree felony burglary conviction is punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison.
Our Pennsylvania Burglary Lawyers Can Defend Against Your Charges
Burglary is a very serious offense in Pennsylvania, and a person may face charges even when a structure entered was not a home. However, there are defenses available for this offense. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers know what these defenses are and we will use them to build a strong case that will give you the best chance of retaining your freedom. Call us today at } or contact us online to schedule a consultation.