Monday, December 1, 2008
Court: Shots Fired Into House From Within Garage Not ‘At’ Dwelling
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
A defendant who fired gunshots into a house from an attached garage could not be convicted of the crime of shooting into an inhabited dwelling, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Reversing one count of Juan Morales’ conviction, the panel explained that he could not have shot into the dwelling in which he was located when he fired the weapon.
Two days before Thanksgiving 2004, Morales came to Rhonda Oliva’s house in the middle of the night and began banging on the front door. He later entered the garage, began pounding on the door leading from the garage to the kitchen and fired several shots through the kitchen door.
Morales was convicted of shooting at an inhabited dwelling in violation of Penal Code Sec. 246, as well as burglary in a jury trial before Sonoma Superior Court Judge René A. Chouteau, but he contended on appeal that the statue was inapplicable because he could not have shot at the dwelling because he was already inside the home.
Writing for the appellate court, Justice Maria P. Rivera, joined by Justices Timothy A. Reardon and Patricia K. Sepulveda, agreed after examining the difference between firing “at” a dwelling and firing “within” a dwelling.
Citing People v. Adams (1982) 137 Cal.App.3d 346, which addressed related issues and held that a garage was part of an occupied building, and People v. Stepney (1981) 120 Cal.App.3d 1016, which held that firing a weapon within a dwelling did not violate Sec. 246, Rivera reasoned that Morales’ actions did not violate the law.
“[A]ny other conclusion would conflict with the prosecution’s own theory—which the jury accepted—that defendant committed burglary in entering the garage,” she explained. “Defendant cannot have been inside the dwelling house for purposes of burglary and outside the same dwelling house for purposes of shooting at it.”
Rivera similarly rejected the prosecution’s suggestion that the presence of a locked door between the garage and the rest of the house excised the garage from being an attached and integral part of the house.
The case is People v. Morales, A117659.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company