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Indiana Court of Appeals: Door From Garage To Kitchen Can Create Distinct "Dwellings" Under Residential Entry Criminal Statute
Posted in Litigation

In Davidson v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed an issue of first impression in Indiana law, concluding that where there is an evident boundary between two areas in a dwelling, each area “is not only a part of the whole dwelling, but also a separate structure or enclosed space” for purposes of the crime of residential entry.

In this case, Davidson was cohabitating with Sarah Ciriello.  After the end of their relationship, Ciriello allowed Davidson to store his belongings in her garage and gave Davidson permission to collect his things even when she left for work.  She specified, however, that Davidson was not to enter the house.  Despite the instruction, Davidson kicked open the kitchen door and entered the house.  Davidson was convicted, in a bench trial, of residential entry, a class D felony.

On appeal, Davidson made two arguments.  First, he claimed that he did not intend to commit another crime once inside the dwelling; however, the Court quickly disposed of that argument by explaining that residential entry, unlike burglary, does not require an intent to commit another felony. 

Davidson’s second argument was that "because an attached garage is considered part of a dwelling, he did not commit residential entry by forcing his way into the kitchen."  The Court of Appeals explained that, in order to obtain a conviction for residential entry, the State was required to present evidence that Davidson knowingly or intentionally broke and entered Ciriello’s dwelling.  See Ind. Code § 35-43-2-1.5.  Davidson stipulated to the first three elements, but contended that he had permission to be, and was already, in the dwelling when he was in the garage.

Noting that no Indiana cases had previously dealt with this issue, the Court turned to other jurisdictions’ handling of the question.  The Court agreed with the conclusion of the Connecticut and Minnesota Supreme Courts, as well as the Alaska Court of Appeals, that permission to be in one area of a structure does not translate into permission to be in all areas of the structure.  Applying that principle to the definition of “dwelling” in Indiana Code section 35-41-1-10, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that “the locked kitchen in Ciriello’s residence constitutes a separate structure or enclosed space . . . and thus Davidson’s unlawful entry into the kitchen constitutes the offense of residential entry.”

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