Is It Burglary Or Criminal Trespass?

No trespassing Sign (NW)

Is It Burglary Or Criminal Trespass?

In Arizona law there are several classifications of law that involve illegal entry or trespass. Two of those classifications are called burglary or criminal trespass. What’s the difference between the two? As a criminal law specialist, Todd Coolidge of Coolidge Law knows all the distinctions of Arizona law. He can effectively walk you through charges of burglary, criminal trespass, and other felony or misdemeanor charges.

As defined by Arizona law, the intent of the person makes all the difference in whether they’ll be charged with burglary or criminal trespass. Read on to discover the contrasts between these two crimes.


First, second, or third degree burglary includes entering or remaining unlawfully in a residence, a fenced yard, a structure, a machine, or a motor vehicle . . . with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein.

Breaking and entering isn’t required for a crime to be called a burglary. Anyone who unlawfully walks through a door—even in the middle of the day—with the intent of committing a crime, can be charged with burglary.

Broken down more simply, the three aspects of a burglary charge are:

  • Unlawful entry onto, or remaining on another’s property
  • A place/machineA building, structure, or machine, including a broad category of items like vending machines or ATMs
  • With intent to commit a crime.


Criminal Trespass

As with burglary, criminal trespass involves unlawful entry or remaining on another person’s property. But unlike burglary, the intent of criminal trespass is different.

Here are some of the aspects of a criminal trespass charge:

  • Entering another’s property unlawfully and refusing to leave when asked by a law enforcement officer or by the owner (classes 2 & 3). Even railroad tracks are included in the class 3 violation.
  • Entering another’s property unlawfully and doing any of the following (class 1)
    • Defacing, burning or mutilating religious symbols
    • Looking into a residential structure and infringing on privacy
    • Intending to hold, work, or take minerals on a claim
    • Trespassing in critical public service facilities


Remember, by law a person is innocent until proven guilty. And guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. If you have questions concerning burglary, criminal trespass, or any other charges, contact Coolidge Law in Gilbert Arizona today. We’re criminal law specialists with knowledge, skill, and integrity, and we’re ready to talk.


Image used under creative commons license. Commercial use (2/26/18) Paul Sableman (Flickr)