177 N. Church Ave
Suite 312
Tucson, AZ 85701
(480) 557-7800
(520) 624-7800

1839 S. Alma School Road
Suite 264
Mesa, Arizona 85210
(480) 557-7800
(520) 624-7800

Difference between Burglary and Trespassing

Interviewer: So is burglary and trespassing the exact same thing or how are they different?

Acacia Law: The main difference is that trespassing can be even on public property that you have no right to be on. For example, if you parked your car in a public parking area, which was reserved for employees only and you were not an employee, then you have trespassed on that property because you have no legal right to park yourself and your car in someone else’s spot that’s reserved, even though technically it’s not a structure, it’s not a building, but you are not allowed to be on the premises.

There are other restrictions. You may see some come in the guise of no loitering signs, which ask people to not go on the grass, around their buildings, around their homes and people ignore them and do that any way. That’s trespassing.

Trespass is something that is usually considered less egregious or serious as opposed to burglary because burglary, in essence, what you are looking at there is normally entering or remaining unlawfully in a residential structure or even a commercial structure, okay, without permission. So in that situation you’re talking about actually going into a building.

Now that could even include a church under certain circumstances or it could include anything from a store that you’ve been ordered not to come back to again, to a bar that you’ve been ordered not to come back to again to any of a variety of different structures wherein the intent of the person is to do one of two things; either commit some form of theft or to commit any type of felony.

So burglary is a charge that actually, in and of itself, becomes a separate charge that comes in degrees. It can be anywhere from a Class 2 to a Class 6 felony. It can be also a Class 1 misdemeanor, but most people I think that I deal with, when they get their charging documents from the government are surprised to see either trespassing or burglary on there because they assume, if they went into a structure without the intent of stealing anything, but maybe to instead get into a physical altercation with somebody or with the intent to disturb the peace, anything of that nature.

Essentially what they’ve done is they’ve committed an act that is considered a felony and in so doing have caused themselves to earn a new charge which is burglary. The burglary charge being also a felony for the purpose of entering into a structure to commit a felony. If that makes any sense, it’s a little confusing, but it’s sort of, there’s a policy reason behind it.

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