Burglary versus Criminal Trespassing

A quick look at the differences. 


September 9, 2020

2 71 Burglary-vs-Criminal-Trespassing-Are-They-Different Desktop

Burglary and Criminal Trespassing are two different crimes that involve unlawfully entering or being present on another’s property. However, from a legal standpoint, the two are defined very differently. The consequences of each act also vary depending upon local laws. Read on to learn about the differences between burglary and criminal trespassing:

Definitions of Burglary and Criminal Trespassing

Burglary is the entry into a building illegally with intent to commit a crime, especially theft. The crime of burglary is very specific. At its purest definition, it means a person illegally entered a property with the  intent to commit a crime. For instance, if a person picks a lock or breaks a window to enter a house with the intention to steal jewelry and money, this is a burglary.

Here’s another example, if someone entered an unlocked door with the intention of causing harm to a person inside, this too is a form of burglary. According to the  U.S. Bureau of Justice, the four types of burglary are: Completed burglary, forcible entry, unlawful entry without force, and attempted forcible entry. If authorities arrest a person for burglary, the charge could range from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Criminal Trespassing

Criminal trespassing is intentionally entering, or remaining on, someone else’s property without their explicit authorization. It’s also defined by when a person intrudes or remains on someone else’s property without their permission; it is considered a criminal offense. Like burglary, the key word here also is  intent.  To meet this criterion and be considered to be unlawful, the person must have:

  • Knowingly gone onto the property without authorization

  • Remained on the property after learning their presence is unwelcome

  • Owner specifically directed visitors are unwanted and was ignored (i.e., a posted sign, fence around the property, verbal statement, or a locked structure)

Accidentally wandering around someone’s wooded property isn’t deliberate and would not be considered criminal trespass but traipsing through their woods to go deer hunting after reading a “no trespassing” sign would be. Most of the time, criminal trespass is an infraction or misdemeanor, however, there are some states that consider it to be a felony. If any  damage is done to the property during the trespass, the consequences are typically more severe.

Key Differences

To charge a person with burglary, law enforcement must be able to demonstrate they intended to commit a crime when they knowingly entered someone’s property. They typically do this by establishing circumstantial evidence and showing the person threatened or harmed a person or had stolen goods in their possession. On the other hand, while criminal trespass is also committed with intention, the key difference is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be with an intention to commit a crime. Just the sheer fact of  being there without authorization is enough to warrant criminal trespass.

Other Things to Know

Most burglars try to determine if an alarm is present before attempting a burglary, and empirically, a clearly visible security system deters them from further illegal activity or malintent. Interested in a home security system and protecting yourself from people unlawfully entering your property? Contact Brinks Home™ today for a free quote.

Lauren Slade is a Dallas-based writer and editor.

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