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When is a dwelling a "dwelling" for burglary conviction?

Posted Thursday, December 13, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

To commit the crime of Residential Burglary, you must have burglarized a “dwelling.” So when is a “dwelling” truly a “dwelling?”

Mr. Nathan J. Hall argued to the Court of Appeals-Division II that the unoccupied house he broke into was not actually a “dwelling” for purposes of burglary. The house at issue had been standing empty for some time and others had broken windows and doors to gain entry. Mr. Hall pointed out that no one had lived at the house for over 15 months with no indication anyone was planning to move in soon.

The Appeals Court admitted that no prior cases had ever discussed in detail whether a building is a “dwelling” for purposes of this law. But the Court found no indication the house had been used for anything else but a dwelling and it was still partially furnished. Further, the previous owner left a number of her possessions in the home while it stood empty. Finally, the Court held that although the house stood empty, the prior owner never actually abandoned the house and had taken steps to keep others out.

Therefore, the Court found that although standing empty, the house was a “dwelling” for purposes of the burglary statute and upheld Mr. Hall’s conviction.

State of Washington v. Nathaniel J. Hall, No. 50543-6-II

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