Thursday, August 09, 2018

People v. Rodriguez (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 8, 2018)

This opinion just goes to demonstrate how utterly absurd the California crime of "burglary" has become.

There's no doubt that the defendant was guilty of a variety of crimes.  He was 41 years old and had intercourse with a 16-year old.  That constitutes a variety of unlawful sex acts, and he was rightly convicted of those offenses.

But the Court of Appeal holds that he was also properly convicted of burglary because he took the minor back to a hotel room that he had rented.  Even though it was his hotel room, that he had rented, and to which he had a clear possessory right, he's guilty of "burglary" because he entered a location to which someone else had vestigal rights with the intent to commit a felony.

That's rediculous.

Is it a deliberate twisting of precedent?  No.  Sadly, it's not.  It's just another step in the continuously bizarre and counterintuitive expansion of "burglary" so that it's an additional offense in any case in which someone comes near any type of building.  Totally unnecessary, and I'm confident not what the public or Legislature expected when they passed the statute.

Plus, the Court of Appeal struggles mightily to explain why you can be guilty of "burglarizing" your own hotel but not "burglarizing" your own home (unless you have a roommate!) or "burglarizing" your own apartment; especially in the latter case, since a landlord has similar residual possessory rights to those of a hotelier.  Sure, there's a quantitative difference -- it's easier to kick someone out of a hotel than an apartment -- but not a qualitative one.  If those residual rights make it a burglary to enter your own hotel room, then the same should be true for entering your own apartment (or perhaps your own home, since your lender has residual rights too).  But people would get upset about that concept, so we don't want to stretch it that far.  At least now.  (Maybe in the next statutory rape case we'll go ahead and do it.)

I accept that burglary in California entails entering someone else's property with the intent to commit any felony therein.  (That's not what I'd define the offense to be were I writing the underlying law, but so be it.)  But once we start convicting people for entering their own hotel room or apartment or other structures that they have an undiluted right to enter, we go too far.  Way too far.  There are plenty of felonies out there.  Once you can be convicted of burglary for entering your own residence or place of rest with the mere intent to commit a crime, we're way too far afield.

Including but not limited to the present case.