A family arrives home to notice that a window has been smashed or a door kicked in. Their home is in shambles, the television, stereo, laptop, electronics, jewelry, and cash are gone. They look at each other in disbelief. "We've been robbed," they exclaim.
Technically, they have not been robbed at all, but burglarized. Robbery and burglary are two separate distinct offenses. Robbery is theft from a person accomplished through force or fear. Burglary is entering a building or structure with the intent to commit a crime. Typically, that crime is also theft, but it is theft from a property rather than a person.
According to the Oklahoma Uniform Crime Report statistics provided annually to the FBI, burglaries in Oklahoma spiked in 2009, with an 8.5 percent increase over the previous year. The subsequent two years, burglaries in the state declined slightly, with 2011 seeing 36,724 burglaries in the state.
Like many other felony offenses, burglary is charged by degrees. A conviction of first degree burglary carries more stringent penalties than a second degree burglary conviction, but both carry strict minimum sentences that can leave a person convicted of burglary in prison for many years.
Burglary is often perpetrated through disguise or in stealth, which means a witness may not be able to accurately identify a burglar, or there may be no witness to the break-in at all. Mistaken identity, misinterpreted evidence, or suppression of illegally obtained evidence may all be potential defense strategies. To combat a felony burglary charge, call a criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate your claim and explain your options for defense.
First Degree Burglary
By statute, first degree burglary occurs when a person or persons break into an occupied home with the intent to commit a crime. According to 21 O.S. § 1431, the one or more of following conditions of such an act constitute burglary in the first degree:
- Gaining entrance by forcibly busting or breaking a wall, door, window, shutter, lock, or bolt
- Breaking in by any means and being armed with a weapon or assisted by another
- Using false keys or picking a lock to open an outer door, lifting a latch, or opening a window
Penalties for conviction of burglary in the first degree include a minimum of 7 years in prison, with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
A person cannot be charged with first degree burglary if no one is present in the building. If the building which a person unlawfully enters is unoccupied, the offense is charged as burglary in the second degree.
Second Degree Burglary
Unlawfully entering any unoccupied structure with the intent to commit theft or any felony is second degree burglary. These structures may include buildings, parts of buildings, rooms, booths, tents, motor vehicles, railroad cars, or any structure in which property is kept. Additionally, breaking open a vending machine or other coin-operated machine with the intent to steal is charged as second degree burglary.
Conviction of second degree burglary carries a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison and a maximum of 7 years.
Possession of Implements of Burglary
Possessing the tools to commit a burglary with the intent to do so is a misdemeanor, unless circumstances make such possession a felony. Implements of burglary include "any pick-lock, crow, key, bit, jack, jimmy, nippers, pick, [or] betty." By law, the penalties for misdemeanor conviction, unless otherwise specified by statute, include a maximum of one year in county jail and a fine of up to $500.
Breaking and Entering
When an act of breaking and entering is committed that falls short of burglary, it is charged as a misdemeanor. Breaking and entering includes unlawfully entering any home, building, structure, or vehicle without the permission of the owner and/or with the intent to commit a crime or malicious mischief.
Criminal Defense of Burglary and Breaking and Entering
The specific conditions of an attempt to break into any structure can quickly escalate a charge to first degree burglary. Prosecutors typically file charges for the most severe offense, and finding an attorney who can successfully negotiate a dismissal or reduced charges is critical to a favorable outcome. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced burglary lawyer, call the Oklahoma criminal defense lawyers of Phillips & Associates at (405) 418-8888.
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