Theft, or taking something that lawfully belongs to someone else, can be classified in many different ways: shoplifting, pickpocketing, embezzling, robbing, and burglarizing. Although each of these acts is a form of stealing, they are all carried out quite differently. These differences can have a significant impact on the way the district attorney files charges.
Embezzlement, for example, is a white collar crime that is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the misappropriated money or property. Likewise, shoplifting is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor—petty larceny—unless the value of stolen goods exceeds a certain amount. If it does, it is grand larceny, a felony. Burglary and robbery, on the other hand, are always felonies. While people may use the terms burglary and robbery interchangeably, the two crimes are quite different. Robbery is marked by theft directly from a person, whereas burglary involves unlawfully entering a building or structure to commit theft.
Burglary may be charged in the first degree or in the second degree, and it is often charged in conjunction with lesser offenses. If you have been arrested on a suspicion of burglary, do not talk to police or investigators or answer their questions. Insist upon your Fifth Amendment right to avoid self incrimination and your Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Call a lawyer who can talk to police for you and who can protect you from saying anything that prosecutors can and will use against you to obtain a conviction.
Burglary is the act of unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit theft or another crime. While forcibly breaking into a building may be a component of burglary, any unlawful entry may be associated with the crime, even if force is not used. Similarly, not every act of breaking and entering is burglary.
Breaking and entering is the act of entering a building or structure without permission, whether the intent is to commit a crime that does not amount to burglary or whether there is no intent to commit a crime. Whereas burglary is a felony, breaking and entering is a misdemeanor. As such, it carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail.
Another burglary-related offense that is punished as a misdemeanor is the possession of implements of burglary with the intent of using them for such a purpose. Possessing tools like crowbars, lock-picks, or jacks is a misdemeanor if a prosecutor successfully demonstrates the intent to commit a burglary using those tools. Possession of the implements of burglary brings penalties that are separate from and additional to any penalties associated with a burglary conviction.
More serious than simple breaking and entering is second degree burglary. It is defined in 21 O.S. § 1435 as “break[ing] and enter[ing] any building or any part of any building, room, booth, tent, railroad car, automobile, truck, trailer, vessel or other structure or erection, in which any property is kept, or breaks into or forcibly opens, any coin operated or vending machine or device with intent to steal any property therein or to commit any felony.” Because the structure is unoccupied, second degree burglary is considered less likely to be a threat to a victim’s personal safety and well-being. Therefore, it is penalized less harshly than first degree burglary. Make no mistake, though—the penalties for second degree burglary are still severe, including 2 to 7 years in prison, even as a first offense. This means that breaking into a vending machine in an attempt to steal the cash inside carries a minimum sentence of two years in prison.
First degree burglary is the most serious burglary offense. State law defines first degree burglary as breaking into a home where one or more persons are present with the intent of committing a crime:
Every person who breaks into and enters the dwelling house of another, in which there is at the time some human being, with intent to commit some crime therein, either:
Oklahoma believes in the right of its citizens to feel safe in their own homes, upholding the Castle Doctrine in allowing homeowners to use deadly force against intruders. A home invasion in Oklahoma is a dicey gamble for a burglar. As a violation of one’s sense of safety and security, a first degree burglary carries significant penalties, including 7 to 20 years in prison. Furthermore, first degree burglary is an “85 Percent Crime.” Anyone convicted of burglary in the first degree is required by law to serve 85 percent of his or her sentence prior to parole eligibility. Someone sentenced to the minimum of 7 years would have to serve nearly 6 years before becoming eligible for parole; a person sentenced to the maximum would serve at least 17.
If you have been arrested on a burglary complaint, call an experienced defense lawyer as quickly as possible. There are steps we can take to work toward a reduced sentence or a dismissal of your case. Call now for a confidential, risk-free evaluation of your case to find out how we can help you. Call (405) 608-4990.