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What is the Difference Between Burglary & Criminal Trespass?

Both burglary and criminal trespass are crimes in Texas, but most people don’t know the difference between the two. Sometimes prosecutors bring burglary charges when they don’t have the evidence for anything but a criminal trespass charge, and your attorney should identify when that’s the case. Often, an aggressive Houston burglary attorney can get charges reduced or fight for an outright acquittal.

What is Criminal Trespass?

You can find the criminal trespass statute at Texas Penal Code section 30.05, which states that it’s a crime to enter or remain on someone’s property without effective consent if you had notice that it was illegal to enter or you had notice to leave.

Here are some examples of criminal trespass:

  • Entering land that is posted with “No Trespass” signs.
  • Climbing a fence to enter someone’s property, since the fence is a clear sign that the owner does not want visitors.
  • Refusing to leave after someone tells you to get off their property.

Criminal trespass is usually a Class B misdemeanor, which carries maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the defendant trespassed someone’s home or a critical infrastructure site, then it is a Class A misdemeanor. If the trespass happened on the border of agricultural land, then it might only be a Class C misdemeanor.

How is Burglary Different?

You can find the burglary statute at Texas Penal Code section 30.02. It makes it illegal to enter someone’s house or a private building without effective consent and commit assault, theft, or felony. It is also illegal to enter (or remain concealed in) in these types of buildings without the owner’s effective consent and with the intent to commit these crimes.

This law differs from criminal trespass in two important ways:

  • First, burglary requires either a criminal act once you enter the property or that you enter with the intent to commit these crimes. Criminal trespass does not.
  • Second, the definition of “entering” for burglary includes any body part, such as poking your head through a window or stepping one foot inside. With criminal trespass, your whole person must enter the property.

Burglary also has much steeper penalties. At a minimum, defendants can be charged with a second-degree felony if they entered someone’s home or a state jail felony if they enter another property.

Can You Get Burglary Charges Reduced?

Yes. Often, the prosecutor lacks sufficient proof that a defendant entered a building with an intent to commit theft, assault or a felony. Unless you actually commit one of these offenses inside, then the prosecutor is doing little more than trying to read your mind.

As experienced Houston burglary defense attorneys, we can work to get a charge reduced to misdemeanor criminal trespass if the facts warrant it. In other situations, we might push for a dismissal of all charges. It is not unusual for prosecutors to overcharge defendants because they do not expect a criminal defense attorney to call their bluff.

Speak with Tad Nelson Today

Houston criminal defense attorney Tad Nelson has built his reputation defending against property crimes, like burglary and criminal trespass. He can meet for a free consultation if you call.