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Name: Corona v. Superior Court
Case #: A161369
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 06/21/2021

An uninhabited outbuilding, such as a detached garage, is not a “dwelling house” for purposes of first degree residential burglary. Corona was charged with first degree residential burglary (Pen. Code, § 459) of a garage, which was detached from the house and separated by an unroofed courtyard. The trial court denied Corona’s Penal Code section 995 motion to set aside the burglary charge. Corona filed a petition for writ of prohibition. Held: Peremptory writ of prohibition issued. Every person who enters “any house, room, . . . outhouse or other building” with intent to commit a felony is guilty of burglary. (§ 459.) This definition lists “house” separately from “outbuildings,” indicating that the Legislature does not consider an outbuilding to be part of a house. Meanwhile, section 460, which defines the degrees of burglary, states that every burglary of an “inhabited dwelling house” is first degree burglary, while all others are second degree. (§ 460, subd. (a) & (b).) The People argued that “dwelling house” includes both the house and the garage. Since the meaning of “dwelling house” was unclear, the court considered the history of the burglary statutes, and comparable language in the arson statute, and determined that “dwelling house” includes attached outbuildings but not detached outbuildings. In addition, courts have for decades held that first degree burglary may apply when a burglar enters a structure attached to a residence but not when a burglar enters a detached, uninhabited structure (e.g., People v. Picaroni (1955) 131 Cal.App.2d 612, 617-618), and the Legislature has not acted to amend this rule. The court disagreed with the People’s argument that a detached garage can be part of a “dwelling house” if it is “immediately contiguous” to it, noting that “contiguous” generally means “touching” or “connected” as opposed to “close.” Thus, Corona is entitled to have his first degree burglary charge set aside under section 995, subdivision (a)(2)(B).