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McKinley Melancon Feb. 11, 2014

In Texas, burglary and criminal trespass offenses are serious matters and should be treated as such. While offenses in these categories may be similar, there are different punishment ranges involved.

First, the Texas Penal Code states that a person commits the offense of criminal trespass if, “the person enters or remains on or in property of another, including residential land, agricultural land, a recreational vehicle park, a building, or an aircraft or other vehicle, without effective consent…” This entails entering an area where a fence is clearly in place to exclude intruders, or simply ignoring signs or verbal communication indicating entry is prohibited. This offense can range from being a Class C misdemeanor up to a Class A misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. This means that the punishment range could potentially be up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.00.

Next, a person commits the offense of burglary of a vehicle “if, without the effective consent of the owner, he breaks into or enters a vehicle or any part of a vehicle with intent to commit any felony or theft.” This offense is typically a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a punishment range of up to 365 days in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.00.

The criminal offense of burglary is committed if, “without the effective consent of the owner, the person enters a habitation or building not open to the public intending to commit, attempting to commit, or committing a felony, an assault, or theft.” It should be known that “entering” in this case includes any part of the body or any physical object connected to the body, so one could merely hold up a flashlight through an open window and be charged with burglary.

A charge under this section is a state jail felony if the building entered is not a habitation, meaning a potential punishment of 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000.00.

If the building entered is a habitation, then the offense committed is a second degree felony, which carries a potential punishment of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a fine not exceeding $10,000.00.

Lastly, an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree if the building is a habitation and “any party to the offense entered the habitation with intent to commit a felony other than felony theft or committed or attempted to commit a felony other than felony theft.” A first degree felony comes with a potential punishment of life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00.

Although we have laid out the potential punishments one may face if charged with an offense under this section, it does not mean that you will necessarily endure such harsh penalties. It is important to have an effective attorney fight to minimize the consequences for you and your record.