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First impression on residential entry issue

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Since a man who had permission to be in his ex-girlfriend's garage did not have permission to be in her house, he committed residential entry as a Class D felony when he kicked in her locked kitchen door to use the phone. The issue whether an attached garage is considered a dwelling under the residential entry statute is an issue of first impression for the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In Rahn Davidson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0810-CR-898, Rahn Davidson contended he didn't commit residential entry because he had permission to be in his ex-girlfriend's garage. After they broke up, she allowed him to store some of his belongings in her garage, but did not allow him into her house. Davidson argued that Indiana caselaw holds that a garage is considered part of a dwelling for purposes of the burglary statute. Therefore in applying that line of reasoning to his case, he had permission to be in his ex-girlfriend's home and can't be convicted of residential entry.

The Indiana Court of Appeals found no Indiana cases dealing with this particular issue, so they turned to cases from other jurisdictions. The appellate court used State v. Cochran, 463 A.2d 618 (Conn. 1983), State v. McDonald, 346 N.W.2d 351 (Minn. 1984), and Wesolic v. State, 837 P.2d 130 (Alaska Ct. App. 1992), to hold the locked kitchen in the ex-girlfriend's residence constituted a separate structure or enclosed space for purposes of Indiana Code Section 35-41-1-10, and thus Davidson's entry into the kitchen constitutes the offense of residential entry, wrote Senior Judge Betty Barteau.

The ex-girlfriend gave Davidson permission to enter the garage, but not her house. The evidence shows there was a clear demarcation between the garage and the locked kitchen. Where there is an evidentiary boundary, such as a door that was locked at the time of the incident, the area is not only a part of the whole dwelling, but also a separate structure or enclosed space, she wrote.

Using Davidson's argument that his entry into the kitchen doesn't constitute residential entry because he was already in the dwelling amounts to carte blanche for anyone who obtains consent to enter only a portion of the residence, the judge continued. Under that rationale, a person couldn't be convicted of residential entry with respect to a separate portion of the residence even if he or she kicked in a locked door.

When the state seeks a conviction under the residential entry statute based upon unlawful entry of a separate structure or enclosed space within a dwelling, the state's burden includes a showing that any permission to be in one section of the dwelling didn't extend to the separate structure where the alleged residential entry occurred, wrote Senior Judge Barteau.

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