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April 22, 2016

Defendant not guilty of home invasion for breaking into room of a house where defendant was lawfully present.

In People v. Bush, No. 326658, the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed whether the term “dwelling” as used in MCL 750.110a, the home invasion statute, is meant to separately include each of the internal components of the dwelling in addition to the exterior or “envelope” of the “dwelling.”  The Court concluded that the plain language of the statute indicates that “dwelling” only refers to the whole structure or shelter, and therefore, a person could not be convicted of home invasion for breaking into an inner room of a dwelling if that person was already lawfully present in the dwelling.
Defendant was charged with one count of first-degree home invasion, MCL 750.110a(2).  The alleged victim testified that she had barricaded herself in an upstairs bedroom of her home using a dresser.  Thereafter, the defendant allegedly kicked the bedroom door open, forced the dresser out of the way, and assaulted the victim.  The victim’s adult son would later testify that he had invited the defendant into the house to fix some bathroom plumbing.  Before trial, the prosecution argued that there was sufficient authority to support the proposition that when a defendant gains lawful access to a building, but has no right to enter an inner portion thereof, the defendant’s use of force to gain entry into an inner portion is sufficient to constitute a “breaking” for purposes of the home-invasion statute.  Accordingly, the prosecution requested the following special jury instruction: “Where a [d]efendant [g]ains access to a building without breaking, but has no right to enter an inner portion of that building, the defendant’s use of force to gain entry into that inner portion is a breaking.”  Defendant objected to the special jury instructions, reasoning MCL 750.110a(2) did not cover such a fact pattern because the term “dwelling,” as defined by MCL 750.110a(1)(a), did not encompass “[a] room within the dwelling.”
MCL 750.110a(1)(a) defines the word “dwelling” to mean “a structure or shelter that is used permanently or temporarily as a place of abode, including an appurtenant structure attached to that structure or shelter.”  The statute does not further define the terms “structure,” “shelter,” or “abode,” so the Court referred to the dictionary definitions of these terms, which defines “structure” as “something (as a building) that is constructed,” defines “shelter” as “something that covers or affords protection,” and defines “abode” as “the place where one abides: HOME.”  Thus, the Court concluded that the term “dwelling” as defined by MCL 750.110a(1)(a), refers to the whole of a structure or shelter used as a place of residence.  Based on this conclusion, the Court reversed the trial court’s order granting the prosecution’s motion and remanded the case to the trial court.

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