Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

Burglary and criminal trespass under Texas law

An individual charged with burglary in Texas can face some serious penalties if convicted. If the burglary was of a residence, the charge is a felony of the second-degree, and a conviction may end in a prison sentence of anywhere from two to 20 years plus a fine of up to $10,000. If the burglary was of a non-residential building, such as a business, the charge is a state jail misdemeanor and the penalties are somewhat less severe: a conviction can result in a state jail sentence from 180 days up to two years, plus a fine not to exceed $10,000.

A burglary of a vehicle or a vending machine is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. The potential sentence for both is a jail sentence of not more than a year, although in the case of a vehicle burglary the minimum sentence is six months. There is also the possibility of a fine of up to $4,000. Criminal trespass is a Class A, B or C misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.

Although many people think of burglary as a theft crime, a person can be charged with burglary even if there was no stolen property. Burglary is defined in Texas law as entering a building or vehicle, or breaking into a vending machine, without the owner's consent and with the intent to commit a theft, assault or felony inside. If the prosecution proves you had the required intent when you entered the building, it doesn't make any difference if the theft, assault or felony didn't actually take place.

For example, if you sneak into a house intending to steal a laptop but you are frightened off by the owner's dog and leave before you can take the laptop, you can be charged with burglary. If you enter a building without consent and knowing that entry was prohibited, but without the intent to commit a crime inside, the proper charge is criminal trespass.

Source: Findlaw, "Texas Burglary and Criminal Trespass Laws," accessed on Feb. 15, 2015