A conviction of first-degree burglary requires evidence that the defendant entered certain structures with the intent to commit a theft or a felony. The structure must be one for which the purpose is habitation, even if not currently occupied, for example, a house, an RV, or a houseboat. Sometimes the element of intent to commit the underlying crime is easily proved because after the defendant entered the structure, he or she did commit the requisite theft or other felony. However, the underlying theft or other felony need not actually to occur to prove the burglary charge. If the prosecution can prove that the defendant intended to commit the underlying crime, that can be enough.
Recently, the California Court of Appeals considered a case where the defendant was charged with burglary when he entered the home occupied by his mother and brother. (People v. Mani, 3DCA, #C088716, 2022 Cal. App. Lexis 66, January 2022.) The prosecution alleged—as the underlying crime to the charge of burglary— that the defendant intended to steal from the home. Although the defendant did forcibly enter the structure and he was holding a kitchen knife, no theft occurred.
The defendant had previously threatened and harassed both mother and brother and both had active domestic violencerestraining orders against the defendant. These prior acts were put into evidence for proof of the defendant’s intent to steal from the home. The defendant challenged the prosecutions “prior acts” evidence as inadmissible evidence that the defendant had the intent to steal. In other words, previous domestic violence did not prove that the defendant intended to commit a theft.