Law School Case Brief
Commonwealth v. Nixon - 2002 PA Super 191, 801 A.2d 1241
In the context of a burglary charge, the focus of the determination of whether a structure is adapted for overnight accommodation should be the nature of the structure itself and its intended use, and not whether the structure is in fact inhabited.
Police responded to a radio report of a prowler. Upon arrival, they spoke to the complainant who lived at 2326 North 18th Street. While speaking with her, the officers heard banging noises coming from the row house next door, 2328 North 18th Street. The complainant told the officers that the house at 2328 was unoccupied. The police found defendant inside the unoccupied house. Following a bench trial, the Court of Common Pleas convicted defendant of burglary, criminal trespass, and criminal conspiracy. Defendant appealed the burglary conviction. He alleged that an unoccupied home undergoing renovation and inhabitable could not fall under property "adapted for the overnight accommodation" within the meaning of the burglary statute and, thus, the offense should have been classified as a second degree burglary, not first degree.
Is an unoccupied row home undergoing renovation, and patently unsuitable for habitation as there was no electricity or water, "adapted for the overnight accommodation" of persons within the meaning of the burglary statute?
The judgment of sentence was affirmed by the appellate court. The house at issue was secure and furnished, but both the water and electricity had been turned off. The appellate court held that the focus of the determination of whether a structure was adapted for overnight accommodation should have been the nature of the structure itself and its intended use, and not whether the structure was in fact inhabited. An examination of the house burglarized led to the reasonable conclusion that it was intended to be used as a residential property and was adapted for overnight accommodation, as found by the trial court. The appellate court noted that statutes are to be construed reasonably, and statutory words and phrases are to be read in accordance with their plain meaning and common usage.
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