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What’s the difference between burglary and theft?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Property crimes, including theft, are among the most common criminal charges pursued in Oklahoma. There are many different forms of theft, from retail fraud or shoplifting to strong-arm robberies. Anyone accused of stealing or attempting to steal property from another person or business could very

well find themselves facing criminal charges. Those charges will vary in severity depending on the value of the items involved and the type of items someone attempts to steal. There are enhanced penalties imposed or harsher charges brought for certain types of property, such as vehicles.

When considering the different theft-related charges that Oklahoma prosecutors can pursue, burglary is one of the more serious offenses that will typically result in felony charges. What differentiates burglary from traditional theft?

Burglary involves unlawful entry

Theft can occur in almost any location, but burglary takes place on private property. Although many cases of burglary involve theft, the state generally does not need to prove that someone intended to steal resources from an individual or business to pursue burglary charges. The statutory definition of burglary focuses on someone illegally accessing a property with the intent to commit a crime. That crime does not need to be theft necessarily. A burglary could involve forcing entry into a home with the intent to commit a violent crime or to damage the property rather than steal from it.

Oklahoma classifies burglary offenses based on whether or not there are people present at the time of the unlawful entry. Burglaries that take place when there is someone present usually result in more serious charges and more significant penalties. Burglary charges will typically be felonies and could result in multiple years of incarceration should someone plead guilty.

First-degree burglary involves breaking into a home with people present and could lead to up to 20 years in prison. The state can even charge those accused of breaking into a motor vehicle with burglary, although such scenarios would likely lead to third-degree burglary charges that carry a maximum sentence of five years.

Nuances in the law can make a big difference in the charges and penalties that someone faces when they’re accused of wrongdoing. Seeking legal guidance to learn more about property crimes and burglary may benefit those accused of unlawfully accessing a property in Oklahoma.