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Assault & Burglary Laws

Assault & Burglary Laws and Penalties in Pennsylvania

Even though assault and burglary often go hand in hand in most criminal cases, both terms differ in meaning according to Pennsylvania law.

Burglary laws in Pennsylvania

According to Pennsylvania law, a burglary is defined as the entrance to a building or a structure that is occupied with the intention of committing a crime. However, this definition is not applicable if the building is open to the public or if the criminal was allowed to enter the premises. The main thing to note here is that he/she must have intentions to commit a crime upon entering the building whether the crime is successful or not. If the person intended to commit a crime upon entering the building, then a burglary has been committed. Besides breaking and entering, a burglar is also anyone who enters a building without consent.

If the individual in question commits a crime in addition to the burglary, then he/she can only be charged with the former, not the latter. On the other hand, if the crime was serious enough to be considered a first or second-degree felony, then that crime might be charged separately.

Assault laws in Pennsylvania

Assault is categorized in two sections in the state of Pennsylvania – simple and aggravated. An individual can be convicted of a simple assault if he/she:

  • Caused bodily harm or injury to another knowingly, recklessly with or without a deadly weapon
  • Tried to force his/her will on another person with the threat of bodily harm in case of non-compliance.
  • Used a hypodermic needle on a police officer or any member of law enforcement while being arrested or searched.

An individual can be convicted of aggravated assault in Pennsylvania if he/she:

  • Causes serious physical harm to another and demonstrates a lack of apathy for human life
  • Causes or tries to cause or places fear of causing serious bodily harm to law enforcement officers, firefighter, and correctional officer while they are performing their duties.
  • Tries to incapacitate state or city officials with harmful gas or a stun gun while they are going about their duties.
  • Causes or tries to cause or places fear of causing serious bodily harm on a member of the teaching staff in a school where he/she is employed.


Since burglary is a first-degree felony, it can land the person who commits it in jail for up to 20 years. On the other hand, if the building was not meant to be lived in overnight and was unoccupied during the burglary, then it can be counted as a second-degree felony with 10 years long prison sentence.

If an assault is a third-degree misdemeanor, it can result in a year in jail for the guilty party. However, if the assault was just a small fight between both parties who willingly participated in it, then it is counted as a second-degree misdemeanor rather than an assault.