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Stowell v. People - 104 Colo. 255, 90 P.2d 520 (1939)


There is no burglary, if the person entering has a right so to do, although he may intend to commit, and may actually commit, a felony, and although he may enter in such a way that there would be a breaking if he had no right to enter.


Defendant Stowell was a freight conductor who was supplied with a switch key that opened all switches and all depot and freight room doors on his division. No regulations governed the use of the key. Defendant used the key to gain access to the warehouse. Stowell was convicted for burglary, a violation of Colo. Stat. Ann. ch. 48, § 82 (1935), based on the information that he entered his employer's warehouse by force for entering the warehouse and taking items worth $ 10. He was sentenced to a term of three to seven years in the penitentiary.  Defendant appealed.


Was the defendant guilty of burglary even if he has access key and was authorized to enter the employer’s warehouse?




The Supreme Court of Colorado reversed defendant's conviction. The statute for burglary, 35 C.S.A. c. 48, § 82, states that "[E]very person who shall willfully, maliciously and forcibly break and enter, or willfully and maliciously, without force, enter into any dwelling house, whether then occupied or not, * * * store-house, ware-house, * * * with intent to commit * * * felony or misdemeanor, * * * shall be deemed guilty of burglary, and, upon conviction thereof,  shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for a term not less than one year, nor more than ten years." 'The court held that the facts established no greater offense than petit larceny because defendant had a right to enter the warehouse at the time and manner in which he did, provided that his intent was lawful.

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