Oklahoma categorizes burglary as either of the first, second, or third degree. Burglary of all types is a felony in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. However, the requirements and sentences for each type vary. Vehicle burglary in Oklahoma is third-degree burglary.
Recent Changes To Oklahoma Law
Vehicular burglary used to be a second-degree charge, with more serious consequences. However, the law was changed in 2018.
Vehicle burglary is now considered burglary in the third degree. Burglary in the third degree is legally defined as breaking and entering any automobile, truck, trailer, or vessel of another, in which any property is kept, with intent to steal any property inside of it or to commit any felony. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1435
However, even though the law has been changed, the crime is still serious. The crime is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1436
Elements Of Vehicle Burglary In Oklahoma
The prosecution must prove every element of a vehicle burglary in order to obtain a conviction. Some of the most common defenses arise out of the prosecution’s inability to prove one or more of the elements of the crime.
The elements of vehicle burglary are:
- breaking and
- an automobile, truck, trailer, or vessel
- of another
- in which property is kept; and
- with the intent to steal any property inside or to commit any felony inside.
Lack Of Intent As A Defense
This is a crime of intent. The prosecutor must prove that a defendant had the specific intent to either steal something from inside the vehicle or had the intent to commit another felony inside.
Intent can be proven with circumstantial evidence. Although a prosecutor is not able to read the mind of the defendant, the prosecutor can use other facts to show the defendant’s intent.
For example, the fact that a defendant is caught rifling through a glove box or holding the vehicle owner’s cell phone may be used to show that the defendant had the intent to steal something from inside the vehicle.
But in the absence of such facts, it could be that a defendant mistook the car for their own and got in or just wanted to get out of the cold and entered. In this instance, the district attorney may charge you with breaking and entering or unlawful trespass.
Other Defenses Against Vehicle Burglary In Oklahoma
Permission: Permission or consent to enter the car is a defense. If one has permission from the owner or someone else in charge of the vehicle, it means that there was no illegal breaking and entering.
So, if you had permission to enter a vehicle, there was no vehicle burglary even if you entered the vehicle to commit a felony inside. This would be the case if you had permission to enter the car, and decided to sell an illegal drug to another person inside the car. The sale would be chargeable as a crime, but not as vehicle burglary.
Insufficient Evidence: Insufficient evidence is a very common defense. All elements of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
A good Tahlequah attorney is skilled at calling the prosecution’s evidence into question. This could be done by presenting an alibi, a faulty lineup procedure, or problems with eyewitness testimony. There are myriad ways for your attorney to attack the prosecution’s evidence.
Duress, Force, or Threat: Sometimes, exigent circumstances require that someone get into a car quickly. This can be the case when a child or animal is left in a hot car.
In this case, although a defendant broke a window and entered, there was no intent to commit a crime inside.
Likewise, if someone holds a gun to a defendant’s head and tells them to smash the window and enter, there is no intent to commit a crime.
There are more defenses that may be available to you. Be sure and explore possible defenses with your attorney.
Breaking And Entering: A Lesser Offense
Breaking and entering really entails two elements, but they really go together and are often charged as a crime when the prosecution is unable to prove the other elements to a vehicle burglary. It is important to understand how the law treats breaking and entering.
A defendant smashing a window and grabbing something from the inside of a car is what we often think of as breaking and entering, but the law is broader than that.
Also, it can include using a stolen or false key to enter a car without permission with the intent to steal or commit another felony inside. It is the lack of permission to enter that drives the element of breaking and entering.
Breaking and entering is a misdemeanor in Tahlequah. It is punishable under the general misdemeanor statute, which prescribes a sentence of up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 64
Free Consultation: Tahlequah Criminal Defense Lawyer
Please contact a Tahlequah criminal defense lawyer to discuss your available legal options if you’ve been charged with vehicle burglary in Oklahoma.
For a free consultation, call Wirth Law Office – Tahlequah at 918-458-2677 or toll free at 1-888-447-7262.
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