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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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Burglary vs. Trespassing: What’s the Difference in Illinois?

There are many kinds of property crimes in Illinois (trespassing, burglary, robbery, and so on), and sometimes only a single intention or action distinguishes one from another.


But each crime has its own set of penalties and appropriate defense strategies; if you are charged with any kind of property crime, it is important to know what the charge consists of so you can work with a criminal attorney to begin crafting a strong, effective defense.


In this post, we will talk about the difference between burglary and trespassing and what you need to know about each to protect yourself from conviction.


Trespassing in Illinois


In Illinois, you have committed criminal trespassing if you:


  • Knowingly and unlawfully enter or remain within or on a building
  • Enter the land of another after receiving prior notice that entry is forbidden
  • Remain on the land of another after being asked to leave
  • Use fraudulent documents/identification to obtain permission to enter/remain in a building


Basically, if you go on private property without authorization from the owner, or stay there after being kicked out, you’ve committed trespassing.


The Purple Paint Law. You may not know that you are trespassing on private property if there aren’t clear “No Trespassing” signs around. Unfortunately, not having these signs will not get you off the hook. In Illinois, there is an alternative way to mark private property that isn’t so widely known: purple paint.


In 2013, Governor Quinn signed SB 1914 (the “Purple Paint Law”) into law. It gives property owners the option of marking trees or posts with purple paint to designate where their private property begins.


This may be an important factor in a trespassing or burglary case in which the property was marked by purple paint. If you were not aware of this rule or the property owner did not abide by the guidelines of the Purple Paint Law, you may be able to use that information in your defense.


Also keep in mind that the Purple Paint Law does not apply in Chicago.


Penalties for Trespassing. Trespassing seems like a simple offense, but it still carries with it a serious charge. Trespassing is either classified as a Class B or Class A misdemeanor, and could mean you will be facing up to a year of jail time.


Burglary in Illinois


 , Burglary vs. Trespassing: What’s the Difference in Illinois?

If you are charged with trespassing, you may or may not face additional burglary charges. It all depends on one question: did you intend to commit a crime?


That’s the big difference between burglary and trespassing: trespassing is the simple act of unlawfully entering another person’s private property. Burglary is the act of unlawfully entering another person’s private property with the intention to commit a crime.


Penalties for Burglary. Since burglary involves more criminal activity than trespassing (or at least the intention), there are more severe penalties for individuals who are convicted on burglary charges. But there are different types of burglary, and they come with different penalties.


Most burglary charges (if this is your first offense) are considered a Class 2 felony. If convicted, you may face between 3-7 years of prison and fines of up to $25,000.


If the burglary was committed at a school, child care facility, or place of worship, the charge may be bumped up to a Class 1 felony. If convicted, you may face between 4-15 years and fines of up to $25,000.


There are also separate charges and penalties for the possession or unlawful sale of burglary tools. You can read more about these charges in previous blog posts.


Defenses to Burglary and Trespassing Charges


, Burglary vs. Trespassing: What’s the Difference in Illinois?

Obviously, felony charges are very serious. You want to fight against them with a strong defense. If you have been charged with burglary, knowing the difference between burglary and trespassing crimes may help you to reduce your sentence. There are also a few other strategies you could use to reduce your sentence or prove your innocence.


Lack of Intent (Burglary) If you did not intend to commit a crime while you were in the building or on the property in question, you have not committed burglary. Remember, it is up to the prosecution to prove intent – not you to prove lack of intent.


Lack of Intention (Trespassing) – If you did not know that the area you were occupying was private property, you may be able to argue that there was no intention or knowledge of unlawful activity. This is especially important if a property is marked with purple paint.


You Were Given AuthorizationIf you were given any sort of permission or authorization to enter the property in question, you have not committed trespassing or burglary.


For more information and defense strategies relevant to your specific case, contact an Illinois criminal lawyer today.


About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.

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