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Name: People v. Thorn
Case #: A121336
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/31/2009

Vehicle burglary from a car parked in the carport under an apartment building was first degree residential burglary. Thorn was observed getting in and out of a vehicle he did not own and was seen carrying a screwdriver. The vehicle was parked in a carport under an apartment building. Later, the owner of the vehicle reported that his car stereo had been removed. Thorn was arrested with the screwdriver on him and charged with first degree burglary. On appeal, Thorn contended that a carport is not part of an inhabited building and that the carport fell outside the ambit of the burglary statutes because it did not carry a reasonable expectation of protection from intrusion. The appellate court rejected both contentions. The question was not whether the carports were used for residential activities, but whether they were functionally interconnected and immediately contiguous to the apartments. Here, the carports were contiguous and interconnected to the building. Further, a reasonable person would view the carport as an area not open to the public, and therefore entry into the carport with felonious intent constituted first degree burglary. The trial court did not impermissibly direct the verdict with its first degree burglary instruction. The trial court instructed the jury that a carport attached to a dwelling house is a part of the inhabited dwelling house. Thorn asserted that the language removed two essential questions from the jury and impermissibly directed a verdict of guilty on an element of first degree burglary. The appellate court rejected that argument, finding that the jury was required to determine whether Thorn entered an inhabited dwelling house with the intent to commit theft before it could return a guilty verdict.