Lawyer working OT on burglary case
August 15, 2008
When an indigent person commits a crime they are appointed a free attorney to represent them. I am perfectly fine with the free counsel; however, I chafe when the defendants lawyer comes up with garbage defenses that waste taxpayers money.
Matthew A., a juvenile so his name is protected (why is that?), is accused of burglarizing Lisa Campos apartment, which is next door to Matthew and his Moms apartment. In fact, their apartments share attic space. When Lisa returned from work on Dec. 15, 2006, she found a mess with bottles of wine empty and yogurt spread out all over. A camcorder, jewelry, a Nintendo and childrens clothing were missing. It didnt take Long Beach Police detectives long to crack the case the attic door was open. Further evidence that young Matthew committed the crime was obtained when his Mom returned some of the stolen goods the next day.
Matthew told detectives that he and a buddy hung out a little bit at Lisas, ate some food, watched television, then took the items from Lisas apartment. So case closed right? You are thinking even Jim Porter as prosecutor could win this case. Not so fast.
As you know, not from personal experience but from reading previous Law Reviews, burglary involves the act of unlawful entry accompanied by the specific intent to commit larceny or a felony. It is your intent (the bad guys intent) when entering that is important even if the theft or felony is committed later or even if it is not committed. The defendant must intend to commit a theft or felony at the time of entry as the cases hold.
Matthews presumably underpaid but creative lawyer claimed he had only been curious and mischievous in attempting to entry Campos apartment. In another words, he entered her apartment through the attic door with no intent to commit a crime, just to hangout. Then, as the argument goes, after entering the apartment Matthew belatedly, perhaps high on spread yogurt, decided to commit vandalism, write graffiti and steal Lisas belongings. I.e. Matthew is innocent.
Fortunately, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court and found Matthew A. guilty of burglary, noting that the evidence of theft of property following entry creates a reasonable inference that the intent to steal existed at the moment of entry. His actual thefts support the inference he entered the apartment with the intent to steal. Of course, that his Mom returned some of the stolen goods did not help. For his efforts Matthew was placed on home probation (lucky Lisa) meaning he probably hasnt yet learned his lesson.
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Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Reno. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firms web site http://www.portersimon.com 2008