Oklahoma protects people and their property from intruders with the state's burglary, illegal entry, and criminal trespass laws.
Oklahoma defines burglary as breaking and entering into a building, structure, vessel, or vehicle, with the intent to commit a crime therein.
The prosecutor must prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction for burglary. Without sufficient proof of each element, the prosecutor may secure a conviction for some other crime, such as trespass or attempted burglary, but not burglary.
In the past, burglary involved breaking and entering a home at night with the intent to commit a felony inside. Many states, including Oklahoma, have expanded burglary crimes beyond protecting only homes from felons breaking in at night. But some of these elements still come into play when it comes to potential penalties. For instance, burglary of a home or dwelling carries harsher penalties than burglary of an office building. Let's take a closer look at some of these definitions and the elements the government must prove.
A person can burglarize a dwelling, building, structure, vehicle, or vessel. A dwelling includes any house, trailer, boat, apartment, or other structure usually occupied for overnight accommodation. Buildings and structures describe commercial buildings, as well any room, booth, tent, trailer, or other structure in which property is kept. And vehicles and vessels can be cars, trucks, trailers, boats, or railroad cars.
The breaking and entering element of the crime of burglary requires that the offender actually entered into a dwelling, structure, vehicle, or vessel without permission to do so.
Any part of a person's body entering the structure can qualify (such as reaching into a window). The law doesn't require a person's entire body to be inside the structure for the entering to occur.
Breaking includes any act of physical force, however slight, by which obstructions to enter are removed. Physically breaking a lock or door counts but so does lifting open an unlocked window. The level of force or means of entry may, however, impact the severity of the offense.
Proving burglary requires proving the defendant's state of mind at the time of entry into the dwelling, structure, vessel, or vehicle. To be convicted of burglary, the defendant must have decided to commit a crime (misdemeanor or felony) and then entered the building for that purpose. Importantly, the intended crime need not be completed; proof of entry and criminal intent are the only requirements for a conviction.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1431, 1435 (2020).)
Oklahoma divides burglary crimes into several categories, with prison terms increasing according to the circumstances and severity of the crime.
First-degree burglary occurs when a defendant breaks and enters into a dwelling, under one of the following circumstances, while one or more people are present and with the intent of committing any crime:
An offender commits second-degree burglary by breaking and entering into someone's dwelling where no other person is present inside or into a structure or commercial building in which any property is kept. For a conviction, the prosecutor must show the defendant broke in intending to steal property or commit a felony. An offender who commits second-degree burglary faces up to seven years in prison.
A person commits third-degree burglary by breaking and entering another's automobile, truck, trailer, or vessel, in which property is kept, and intending to steal any property inside or commit any felony. A guilty defendant is subject to up to five years in prison.
Penalties for burglary increase if the burglar had, used, or tried to use explosives in order to open or attempt to open a vault or safe while committing the offense. Such a defendant faces at least 20 years in prison and even up to 50 years in prison.
Oklahoma law prohibits possessing any dangerous offensive weapon or instrument, pick-lock, crow, key, or another implement of burglary, with the intent to break and enter any building, vehicle, or structure and commit any felony therein. A first-time offender is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.
However, if the defendant previously received a conviction for burglary and possesses or transports any combination of three or more specified burglar's tools (bolt cutters, punches, pry bar, sledgehammer, or chisel), the result will be a felony conviction. Such a conviction brings with it up to two years of incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 9, 10, 1431, 1435 to 1438, 1441, 1442 (2020).)
This offense is a "catch-all" crime that includes breaking and entering into any building or structure under circumstances not amounting to burglary with or without the intent to commit a crime therein. A person commits illegal entry by entering a building, booth, tent, warehouse, railroad car, vessel, or other structure belonging to someone else with the intent to commit any felony, larceny, or malicious injury to or destruction of someone else's real or personal property. Such an offender is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 10, 1438 (2020).)
Similar to burglary, trespass is defined as knowingly entering onto private property without the authority to do so. Trespass differs from burglary in that trespass protects more property and generally doesn't require intent to commit a crime upon entry. Instead, an unlawful entry qualifies as trespass.
Penalties vary according to the type of property involved. For example, unlawful entry onto land used for farming or ranching incurs a fine of at least $500 (and up to $1,500) and restitution for any damages caused while on the land, at least 30 days (and up to six months) in jail, or both. Penalties increase for second and subsequent convictions.
Trespassing on property containing a critical infrastructure facility, such as a water treatment facility or oil refinery, constitutes a misdemeanor and subjects the offender to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the trespasser intended to willfully damage, destroy, vandalize, tamper with equipment, or impede operations of the facility, the person is guilty of a felony and faces up to one year of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, §§ 1792, 1835 (2020).)
If you've been charged with burglary, criminal trespass, or a related crime, consult a local criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can review the unique facts of your situation and advise you on how the law will apply to your case.