Legal Distinctions Between Criminal Trespass, Burglary, Larceny

Texas courts often consider criminal trespass, burglary and larceny in conjunction with one another, but there are important legal distinctions. In a sentence, criminal trespass consists of intruding on property where the offender is knowingly unwelcome, burglary is doing so with the intent to commit a crime and larceny is theft of property. Defining these according to state law can help alleged offenders create a defense.

All three are criminal offenses in the state, but the severity can vary from a Class C misdemeanor to a first degree felony. Each case depends on factors such as the location, the intent of the alleged offender, the presence of firearms and the value of any stolen property.

Burglary and criminal trespass

To get a conviction of burglary under Texas law, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the defendant trespassed on property with the express intent to commit a felony, theft or assault. The defendant does not need to follow through on the intended crime and could still see a burglary conviction even if he or she decided against the action.

However, the burden of proof rests on the prosecutor to demonstrate that the perpetrator had the intention to commit such a crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove this without a reasonable doubt, he or she may pursue charges of criminal trespass instead.

Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor while burglary can range from a misdemeanor to a first degree felony with life in prison. Of course, courts reserve such a severe sentence for extreme cases, but convicted offenders may still face harsh punishments if the property in question qualifies as a habitation under state law.


Prosecutors may charge an alleged offender with larceny if he or she stole property during the unlawful entry. Under state law, larceny is the theft of property if the perpetrator intends to deprive the owner of such property. In other words, larceny is intentional theft. In Texas, however, larceny convictions are still possible if the alleged offender did not take reasonable measures to avoid the acquisition of stolen property.

Similar to burglary, larceny convictions can result in a misdemeanor or a first degree felony. The severity of a sentence for larceny will depend primarily on the value of the property in question. Other relevant factors may also contribute to the severity of a sentence. Of course, larceny combined with other charges can increase a sentence.

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