Is being a less-than stellar parent a crime? The Washington County District Attorney thinks so. Earlier this week the Oregon Court of Appeals threw out a conviction for Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree here. The case was the result of a household dog biting a child on a number of occasions. While certainly not a model for good parenting skills, was this a crime?
Under Oregon law a person commits the crime of burglary when they: 1) Enter or remain unlawfully in a building or residence, 2) with the intent to commit a crime therein. Most people think of burglary as breaking into a building for the purpose of stealing something. However burglary under Oregon law covers a much wider range of conduct. Unlawful entry cases arise when a person enters premises without the consent or authorization of the owner. A person remains unlawfully when, after entering with permission, they fail to leave after such permission expires or is revoked. It is often said that in either case, an unlawful entry or an unlawful remaining, that a burglary conviction requires a criminal trespass for the purpose of committing a crime. What then is required for criminal trespass you might ask? Confusingly Oregon law defines criminal trespass as (did you guess it?) to "enter or remain unlawfully." It is this circular definition that is at the heart of much of the burglary confusion.