The Difference Between Trespassing and Burglary
Although trespassing and burglary are both property crimes that involve being on someone else’s property unlawfully, they are not the same offense. Burglary crimes tend to be more severe, with stiffer penalties, than trespassing crimes. If you are facing trespassing or burglary charges, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Is Trespassing in Colorado?
In Colorado, a person can be charged with trespassing for unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else’s property. There are three degrees of trespassing under state law:
- Third-degree trespass: In the third degree, trespass is defined simply as entering or remaining on the property of another. The premises do not have to be fenced or enclosed. This crime is usually charged as a petty offense, punishable by up to 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.
- Second-degree trespass: A person accused of unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else’s enclosed or fenced property; in the common areas of a hotel, motel, apartment building, or condominium; or in someone else’s motor vehicle may be charged with second-degree trespass. When charged as a class 2 misdemeanor, this crime may carry jail time of up to 120 days and/or a fine of up to $750.
- First-degree trespass: Trespass in the first degree occurs when a person unlawfully enters or remains in someone else’s dwelling or breaks into someone else’s motor vehicle with the intent to commit a crime. It may be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by jail time of up to 364 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the dwelling was inhabited or occupied, it may be charged as a class 6 felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months and/or fines of $1,000 to $100,000.
What Is Burglary Under Colorado Law?
Like trespassing, burglary may be charged in any of three degrees:
- Third-degree burglary: This crime involves breaking into or entering a vending machine, cash register, product dispenser, safe, vault, or safety deposit box with the intent to commit a crime. It is a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and/or up to $750 in fines.
- Second-degree burglary: Unlawfully entering or remaining in a building or residence with the intent to commit a crime within is second-degree burglary. It may be charged as a class 3 felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison if entry is made into a home, or as a class 4 felony, carrying a two to six-year prison sentence if the building is a business.
- First-degree burglary: When unlawfully entering the property of another involves assaulting or menacing another person or the threatened or actual use of a deadly weapon, including explosives, the crime is burglary in the first degree. It is charged as a class 3 felony, punishable by four to 12 years in prison and $3,000 to $750,000 in fines.
What Is the Key Difference Between Burglary and Trespassing?
Both trespassing and burglary involve unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else’s property. The key difference is that burglary also involves the intent to commit or the actual commission of another crime. Legal defenses against trespass or burglary charges will depend on the circumstances of the case.
At The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., we have a successful track record defending clients in criminal matters. Founding attorney Timothy Bussey is a former prosecutor and an experienced criminal trial lawyer. Call us at (719) 475-2555 to find out how we can help if you are facing trespass or burglary charges.