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Differentiating Between Residential And Commercial Burglary

May 19, 2022

There has recently been a string of burglaries in Montgomery County. The suspects have not been found by police and it is unclear as to whether the same suspects were involved in all burglaries. The interesting part of the story from a legal perspective is that all of the burglaries took place in commercial structures.

Many people do not realize there is a difference between charges of residential burglary and commercial burglary. However, those differences are not always so clear and these charges, like most in Pennsylvania, are very fact-specific.

Residential Burglary

In the Commonwealth, a residential burglary occurs when a person enters a structure that has been adapted for overnight accommodations. Residential burglary is a much harsher charge than commercial burglary because there is a greater risk to a person’s safety and well-being when someone breaks into their home. As such, residential burglary is charged as a first-degree felony. The penalties one faces if charged are between 10 and 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

Commercial Burglary

Commercial burglary occurs in Pennsylvania when a person enters a structure that has not been adapted for overnight accommodations. If a person is present in the structure at the time, the charge is still classified as a first-degree felony, as it places the safety and well-being of that individual at risk. If the structure is unoccupied at the time, commercial burglary is typically classified as a second-degree felony. Considered less serious than first-degree felonies, the penalties for those convicted of commercial burglary include between five and ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000.

The Difference is Not Always Clear

Many people believe it is easy to determine whether a structure is intended for residential or commercial purposes. When it comes to burglary charges though, the difference is not always so clear.

For example, an executive may sometimes use his office to sleep. He may have a fold-out couch, and a coffee machine on a drink trolley. He is out of town at the time a burglary happens. The office building is clearly a commercial structure, but he has adapted it so that it could provide overnight accommodations. This makes it unclear as to whether the structure is considered a commercial or residential space.

It is for this reason that anyone charged with any type of burglary should speak to a criminal defense lawyer. The charges one will face will largely depend on the facts of the case and an attorney can argue for lesser charges. The case of residential and commercial burglary highlights the need for such legal assistance, as the prison time between the two varies by ten years.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Allentown Can Help with Your Charges

If you are facing charges of burglary or any other criminal offense, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim can help you retain your freedom. Call us today at 215-515-6892 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled attorneys.



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