January 30, 2012

Colorado Court of Appeals - Criminal Law Decision 1-5-12

People v. Morales            Burglary – Definition of a Dwelling
Facts: The prosecution accused Mr. Morales of stealing items from a house under renovation. No one lived in the house at the time of the burglary, and seemingly, the house was inhabitable. A jury convicted Mr. Morales of burglary of a dwelling, a class 3 felony.
Issue: Whether an inhabitable, vacant house under renovation qualified as a dwelling for burglary?
Held: Yes
Reasoning: The Court concedes these facts, “The record shows that Cheek purchased the Stuart home from a woman who had lived there, with her family and on her own, for about thirty-five years. Cheek testified that he planned on renovating the home and selling it for a profit. Specifically, Cheek planned to replace the roof, windows, and siding, remodel the kitchen and bathrooms, and refinish the hardwood floors. At the time of the burglary, Cheek and his business partner were in the process of demolishing the interior of the Stuart home and refinishing the hardwood floors. They had torn out the kitchen cabinets, moved the kitchen appliances, ripped up the carpeting, demolished a bathroom, taken out a fireplace, and removed ceiling tile, baseboards, trim, and several doors, among other things.” Thus, the house was inhabitable.
            Nevertheless, the Court reasoned, if the structure could be construed now or at any time in the future, as a dwelling, then that structure fit the definition of dwelling under the burglary statute.

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