Burglary & Intent

I was drunk and decided that I needed to pee. I was walking home and I didn’t think I would make it. I saw a house that looked vacant, so I went to the front door and turned the knob. The house wasn’t locked. I walked in. I used the lavatory. It wasn’t a vacant house, it was adapted for overnight accommodation. On my way out I saw a vase that looked good to me, so I picked it up to “look” at it and walked back out the front door. Once I was on the front lawn, I decided that I didn’t like the vase so I chucked it behind a shrub. I walked home and passed out.

Am I guilty of any crimes?

We get a lot of questions about criminal law, but the number one question we get is, “are these questions for real or are they made up?” Someone asked this question; i kid you not.

This is definitely a criminal trespass. It’s probably not a burglary, though some of my District Attorney friends would argue that it is burglary. The basic idea of burglary is that when you enter the property you have the intent to commit a crime therein. If you enter the house and you do not intend to commit a crime at the time that you enter, then you have not committed the crime of burglary. Criminal trespass doesn’t count. If you enter the house with the intent to trespass, that is not a “crime therein,” so you would not be guilty of burglary.

In this example, the person does not develop the intent to take the vase until AFTER they are already in the house. Therefore, there is no burglary based on the vase. The real question is whether peeing in someone else’s home is disorderly conduct or criminal mischief, and whether those crimes can be the crime therein for a burglary. I would argue that peeing in the house IN THE BATHROOM is not a crime, so it is not burglary.

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