ILNews

Partial residential entry enough for conviction

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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Whether your whole body, the upper half, or just a hand enters someone else's home, that's enough to be considered "entering" under Indiana statute for conviction of residential entry. The Court of Appeals ruled today on the definition of entering a dwelling under the residential entry statute, something the courts haven't defined in previous cases.

In Robert Williams v. State, 49A05-0612-CR-688, Williams appealed his conviction for residential entry, a Class D felony, arguing that only the upper half of his body leaned into the victim's residence through a window he had broken. To be convicted, he argued, his entire body had to enter the residence.

Williams went to the residence of a person identified as "Brown" in the brief, with whom he was romantically involved. When Brown refused to let Williams into the residence, he broke a bedroom window and leaned his upper half of his body through the window. Brown called the police and Williams was charged with residential entry and other offenses. After a jury trial Aug. 24, 2006, Williams was found guilty of residential entry and was sentence to three years incarceration, which was enhanced by 910 days because he was a habitual offender.

Defining "entering" under the statute for residential entry is new territory for the courts, wrote Chief Judge John Baker in the opinion. Williams argued the residential entry statute should require the entire body to enter a residence because the statute does not require an intention to commit a felony as the residential burglary statute does. In citing cases from California and Kansas, the rule is that any breach of the threshold by any body part constitutes entry in jurisdictions that have construed its burglary statute along those lines.

"Williams proposed rule of complete entry would lead to the absurd result that an individual could avoid prosecution for residential entry by simply ensuring that a foot or hand remained outside the threshold of the residence," wrote Chief Judge Baker.

Indeed, entering a home, no matter how slight, violates the occupant's possessory interest in the building and could lead to a dangerous situation. A partial entry into a home creates the same situation that the crime of residential entry is supposed to deter in the same manner as complete entry, and thus partial entry falls under the statute of residential entry.

In the same case, the state cross-appealed, stating Williams' appeal should be thrown out because he did not file the appeal in a timely manner. Although at the end of his trial, Williams said he would not appeal, he did send a letter to the trial court Sept 15, 2006, requesting the appointment of appellate counsel. The trial court appointed the County Public Defender the same day to represent him; however, when the court reporter contacted the County Public Defender's office Oct. 24, the office had not received notice of the trial court's order of the appointment of counsel. Because the time period for filing a notice for appeal had expired, the state argued Williams' appeal should be dismissed.

The Court of Appeals ruled that because Williams had sent the letter in a timely manner, he was not at fault for the failure of the appeal to be filed in a timely fashion and his request for appeal was granted.
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