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The Difference Between Burglary and Home Invasion in Pennsylvania

November 17, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In early September, police in western Pennsylvania began an investigation into a case in which two people entered a woman’s home. When leaving the home, one suspect fled out the front door after opening fire into the home, while the second suspect fled out the back door. When police arrived, they found the body of a 29-year-old man wearing a ski mask. He had apparently been shot by his accomplice.

Although no arrests have been made yet, the story shines a light on the crime of home invasion in Pennsylvania. Many people confuse this crime with burglary but, there is a significant difference. Learn what this is below.


Pennsylvania law defines burglary as entering any structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. To secure a conviction for burglary, the prosecution must prove two elements of the crime. They must first prove that an individual unlawfully entered a building or structure, and they must also prove that the person intended to commit a crime once inside.

If the prosecution cannot prove both elements of the crime, they may secure a conviction for a lesser crime, such as trespassing or attempted burglary. However, even if a crime is not successfully committed once inside, the prosecution may still secure a conviction if they can prove that the individual had the intent to commit a crime inside the structure prior to entering.

The crime of burglary is always a felony in Pennsylvania, although the degree of the felony may vary depending on the circumstances of the case. When no one was in the structure at the time and the building was not someone’s home, burglary is charged as a felony of the second degree. If anyone was in the structure at the time, regardless of whether the building was a dwelling or not, the crime is charged as a felony of the first degree.

Home Invasion

Home invasion is not considered a separate offense from burglary. Instead, it is a specific type of burglary that happens within a dwelling. The prosecution must still prove the elements of burglary in order to successfully pursue a conviction. That is, they must show that the person entered a dwelling, and that they had the intent to commit a crime once inside.

The penalties for a home invasion conviction remain largely the same. The key difference is if someone was inside at the time of the invasion. Under these circumstances, the sentence is typically more severe, making a conviction for home invasion typically much harsher than one for burglary.

Are You Facing Charges? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

Burglary and home invasion are the same type of offense, but they do have slight differences. A similarity between the two of them is that anyone convicted will face harsh sentences that include several years in jail. If you are facing charges of either burglary or home invasion, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are here to help. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys and to learn about the defenses available in your case.


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