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Is Abandonment A Defense To Burglary?

July 26, 2021

By Van Der Veen, Hartshorn, and Levin

Recently, a man pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary after it was found that he broke into an empty home. After the act, law enforcement found the man at a motel and in his luggage were the stolen clothing, checkbooks, and jewelry. The story is an interesting one because the home was not occupied at the time the man broke in. Many people confuse this with the defense of abandonment, but the two are not the same.

Abandonment as a Defense to Burglary

The Pennsylvania Statutes specifically provide for the defense of abandonment to burglary charges. If the property in question is abandoned, the Commonwealth will not be able to secure a conviction. However, the property must be totally abandoned. That means no one must be living in the structure immediately before, during, or after the offense. It does not simply mean someone was not home at the time of the offense. As such, in the recent story, abandonment could not be used as a defense.

The Challenges Associated with Using Abandonment as a Defense

Abandonment is sometimes a challenging defense to use. The prosecution for the Commonwealth pursues convictions eagerly, and they will go to great lengths to prove their case. To do this, they will often try to show that someone technically owned the home. They will go through the books, trying to determine who legally owns the party, and they may even try to track the person down and have them appear in court to testify that they are the actual owners of the property. Still, even when the prosecution tries these tactics, there are ways to prove abandonment when facing burglary charges.

How to Prove Abandonment of a Property

The Commonwealth will go to great lengths to prove burglary and so, it is imperative to work with an Allentown criminal defense lawyer. A defense lawyer will know how to prove the structure was abandoned, so you have the best chance of beating the charges.

One way a criminal defense lawyer may try to prove the structure was abandoned is that the property taxes had not been paid for several years. Or, if the owner of the property had not visited it or lived it in for several years, and also failed to maintain the property, a judge may determine that these facts indicate the structure had been abandoned and so, the offense of burglary does not apply.

Call Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Allentown Today

Abandonment can be used as a defense to burglary, but it is sometimes a challenging one to prove. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our experienced Allentown criminal defense lawyers know how to prove abandonment, and can also advise on any other defense that may be applicable in your case. To learn more about your options, call us at (215) 486-0123 to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys and to learn more about how we can help you beat your charges.



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