A person who commits burglary or aggravated burglary in Ohio can face serious felony penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment and hefty fines. Breaking and entering carries a low-level felony penalty. Trespass can result in misdemeanor or felony penalties.
Generally speaking, trespass involves going onto someone else’s property without permission, and the law defines burglary as a trespass plus intent to commit any crime (felony or misdemeanor) inside occupied structures. Breaking and entering involves a trespass of unoccupied structure or land and intent to commit a felony or theft.
A person commits burglary when, by force, stealth, or deception, they trespass in an occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Let’s break down this definition a bit more.
Trespass. A trespass occurs when a person enters or remains in a structure without permission to be there.
Occupied structures. Burglary crimes apply to occupied structures that are maintained or used as a permanent or temporary dwelling or habitation or for overnight accommodation. Occupied structures can include buildings, vehicles, trailers, or outbuildings used for those same purposes. The term “occupied” refers only to the structure's intended use and doesn’t necessarily mean a person is present in the structure.
Force. An offender uses force when they use any type of physical effort to gain entry into the structure. Examples of force can be as simple as turning a doorknob or pushing open a door.
Stealth. A person uses stealth when they covertly avoid discovery in order to gain entry into the structure or remain therein. An illustration of such action would be when an individual enters a home without knocking, ringing the doorbell, or getting permission to go inside.
Deception. A person employs deceit when they use trickery or fraud to mislead someone. For instance, a defendant used deceit when he entered a corporate building well-dressed in order to blend in with the other building occupants and gain entry to steal their computers.
(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2909.01, 2911.12 (2020).)
The law divides burglary into separate categories, each incurring prison terms according to the severity of the crime.
A person commits third-degree felony burglary by unlawfully entering or remaining in an occupied structure with the intent to commit a criminal offense inside. This offense level doesn’t require that another person be present or likely be present. The offender faces incarceration time ranging from nine months to three years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Ohio law provides for two types of second-degree felony burglary. Both carry a prison term ranging from two to eight years and a fine of up to $15,000.
Burglary of habitation when a person is present or likely to be. This form of second-degree burglary includes unauthorized entry or continued presence in a habitation with the intent to commit a crime inside and when another person is, or is likely to be, present in or around the habitation.
Burglary of occupied structure with a person present. This second-degree felony occurs when someone, with the intent to commit a crime inside, enters or remains unauthorized in any type of occupied structure where one or more people (other than an accomplice) are present in or around the structure (such as in an attached garage or loading dock area).
Second-degree burglary involving an occupied structure with a person present increases to first-degree aggravated burglary when the offender either:
Penalties for first-degree aggravated burglary in Ohio include a prison term ranging from three to 11 years and a fine of not more than $20,000.
(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2911.11, 2911.12, 2929.14, 2929.18 (2020).)
Ohio law has a separate crime prohibiting breaking and entering. Under this law, it’s a crime to enter an unoccupied structure by force, stealth, or deception, with the intent to commit any theft or felony. Trespassing on the land of another with the purpose to commit any felony constitutes breaking and entering as well.
This offense is less serious than burglary because it involves land or a structure that is both unoccupied and nonresidential (such as an abandoned warehouse). Additionally, the criminal purpose is limited to theft offenses and felonies.
A person who commits breaking and entering is guilty of a fifth-degree felony and faces six to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2911.13, 2929.14, 2929.18 (2020).)
As noted above, trespass forms one of the elements of burglary. Unlike burglary, trespass does not require that the offender intend to commit a crime (with one exception noted below). Ohio law recognizes three forms of trespass: criminal trespass, aggravated trespass, and trespass of a habitation.
Several different activities constitute criminal trespass.
Knowing trespass. Knowingly entering or remaining on someone else’s land or premises without permission.
Reckless defiance of notice. Recklessly entering or remaining on someone else’s property when notice against access or presence is given. Notice can be accomplished in several ways, including direct communication, signage, or a fenced enclosure.
Negligent failure to leave. Negligently failing or refusing to leave someone else’s property after the owner, occupant, or signage instructed or notified the intruder of the trespass.
All four types of criminal trespass are fourth-degree misdemeanors. Violators face penalties of up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
Aggravated trespass is a first-degree misdemeanor. A person commits aggravated trespass by entering or remaining on private land or premises without permission and with the purpose of committing a misdemeanor involving actual or threatened physical harm to another. A person who commits aggravated trespass is subject to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Trespass in a habitation constitutes a fourth-degree felony and involves an offender trespassing in a permanent or temporary habitation when any person is present or likely to be present. Such an offender faces incarceration time of six to 18 months and a fine of not more than $5,000.
(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2911.12, 2911.21 2911.211, 2929.24, 2929.28 (2020).)
If you have been charged with burglary, trespass, or a related crime, consult a qualified local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can review the unique facts of your situation and advise you on how the law will apply to your case.