Vehicle Burglary Can Have Serious Consequences
Burglary of all sorts is a crime of stealth. The term conjures images of a masked man carrying a bag in which he will put his loot as he steps lightly making his getaway. And the images are warranted to some extent.
In Oklahoma, burglary is an illegal breaking and entering into the property of another with the intent to take something not belonging to you or to commit another felony inside. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1431, 1435.
Under Oklahoma law, burglary is categorized as either of the first or second degree, with burglary in the first degree as the more serious of the two crimes.
Vehicle burglary is a burglary in the second degree. You may be convicted of second-degree burglary if you break and enter into a vehicle or any of the following with the intent to steal or commit a felony inside: building, room, booth, tent, railroad car, trailer, vessel or other structure, including a coin-operated vending machine. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1435.
Elements of Vehicle Burglary Charges
It can be helpful to break down the law into distinct elements. In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction.
- a vehicle or trailer or vessel, building or room, booth or tent, or railroad car;
- of another;
- in which property is kept;
- with the intent to steal or commit any felony inside. OUJI-CR 5-13
Breaking and Entering and Intent: Critical Issues
The crime of burglary includes an illegal “breaking and entering.” How you break into and enter the vehicle and your specific intent in doing so become critical issues in a vehicle burglary case. Most defenses in vehicle burglary hinge on these elements.
The most obvious way to break and enter someone’s car is to smash a window and reach inside. But using a false key to enter or even entering an unlocked car may be enough to meet these elements. The key issue here is permission. If you have permission to enter the car, there is no breaking and entering.
Likewise, if you smashed a window of a hot car to save a child or an animal, you may have a viable defense. These kinds of examples may be exempt from “breaking and entering.” These examples also lead us to the issue of intent.
To be convicted, you must have an intent to steal or to commit another felony inside. Saving a child or an animal in a hot car does not meet the element of intent or steal or commit another felony inside the car, but stealing a telephone does. So does taking another thing from inside the car that doesn’t belong to you.
Penalties for Vehicle Burglary
All burglary charges, whether of the first or second degree, are felony charges in Oklahoma. Burglary in the second degree is punishable by a jail term of between 2 and 7 years. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1436. And while this is less than you would be subject to for a conviction of burglary in the first degree, it is still a long time.
Losing your freedom is a serious matter. If you are under investigation or are being charged with burglary, you will need to fire an experienced Wagoner felony defense attorney. Your local attorney is both well-versed in the law and in your local court system. Your attorney will be familiar with the judges you will face and what that particular judge will find persuasive. Act now to preserve your freedom.
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