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Name: People v. Cardwell
Case #: D060320
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/22/2012
Summary

Penal Code section 464 (burglary by acetylene torch) requires proof that the defendant is inside the building before using the torch. Appellant, convicted of section 464 by jury trial, contended on appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. According to the evidence presented at trial, appellant used a torch to cut a hole in the exterior door of the store and then stole store merchandise. The court agreed with appellant’s contention and reversed the conviction. Penal Code section 464 states that, “Any person who, with intent to commit crime, enters, . . . , any building, . . . , and opens or attempts to open any vault, safe, or other secure place by use of acetylene torch,” is guilty of a felony. Applying the rule of statutory construction, the court considered the plain meaning of the statute’s language and found that the phrase, “other secure place” does not include a defendant’s use of a torch to gain entry into a locked or “secure” building. Instead, for section 464 to be triggered, the defendant must first be inside the building when he uses the torch to open the secure place. (Disagreeing with People v. Collins (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 1.)