Although similar, burglary and criminal trespass are two separate crimes in Texas. To get a conviction for burglary, the more serious of the two, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that without consent of the owner, the defendant entered a private habitation with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault. Entering a vehicle or breaking into a coin-operated machine with the intent to commit a felony or theft is also considered burglary. For burglary, even if the felony, theft, or assault did not take place, a defendant may be found guilty, even if all they had was the intent to commit a crime.
The Difference Between Burglary and Criminal Trespass
The difference between these two related offenses is best explained through an illustration. Suppose Bob broke into Mary's house in hopes of stealing her new television. However, once he broke in and entered the house, the alarm went off and Bob fled the scene. Even though Bob did not take anything from Mary's house, since he intended to do so upon entering, Bob may be found guilty of burglary.
On the other hand, for a defendant to be convicted of a criminal trespass, the only things a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt are:
- The defendant entered or remained on the property of another without the person's consent; and
- The defendant had notice that the entry was forbidden, or received notice to leave but failed to do so.
The main difference between criminal trespass and burglary is the intent, or lack thereof, to commit a felony, theft, or assault once the defendant has entered the property.
Texas Burglary and Criminal Trespass Laws: The Basics
||Texas Penal Code § 30.01 - § 30.07
|Statutory Definition of Burglary
A person commits an offense if, without the effective consent of the owner, the person:
- Enters a habitation, or a building (or any portion of a building) not then open to the public, with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault;
- Remains concealed, with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault, in a building or habitation; or
- Enters a building or habitation and commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft, or an assault.
|Statutory Definition of Criminal Trespass
A person commits an offense 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 and the person:
- Had notice that the entry was forbidden; or
- Received notice to depart but failed to do so.
|Burglary Offense Classifications
- State jail felony if committed in a building other than a habitation.
- Second degree felony if committed in a habitation.
- First degree felony if the premises are a habitation and any party to the offense entered with the intent to commit (or attempted to commit) a felony other than felony theft.
|Criminal Trespass Offense Classifications
- Class B misdemeanor (if no other aggravating or mitigating factors).
- Class C misdemeanor if committed on or within 100 feet of agricultural land, or on residential land and within 100 feet of a protected freshwater area.
- Class A misdemeanor if offense was (a) committed in a habitation or shelter center, Superfund site, or within a critical infrastructure facility; or (b) perpetrator carried a deadly weapon in the commission of the offense.
|Penalties and Sentences
- Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail, fine of up to $4,000.
- State Jail Felony: 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility, find of up to $10,000.
- Second degree felony: 2 to 20 years in prison, fine of up to $10,000.
- First degree felony: 5 years to life in prison, plus fine.
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Texas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Charged with Burglary or Criminal Trespass in Texas? Get Legal Help
Whether you're an animal rights activist who ventured too far onto a cattle feedlot or broke into a home with the intent to steal valuable jewelry, burglary or criminal trespass offenses can get you into big trouble. For this reason, it's best to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you if you've been charged with violating Texas burglary and criminal trespass laws.