Monday, November 27, 2017

I Did Not See That One Coming

Giraffe did not see that coming
You gotta wonder what judges are thinking when they hand down decisions.  Sometimes, you think they're going one way and then they go another.  Sometimes, they come up with decisions that are so "novel" that you gotta wonder where they came up with that one.

For example, I was reading the Daily Journal the other day and found People v. Garcia, 2017 DJDAR 10777 (2017).  Now, I'm not complaining about this case.  In fact, I'm applauding the courts decision - it's just the way they got to their decision that is baffling.

The facts of this case are that Pedro Garcia was staying as a guest at his sister-in-law's house.  At some point while he was a guest, he forcibly raped and sodomized his 12-year-old niece (who was also at sister-in-laws home as a guest and was a family member).  Garcia was, subsequently, convicted of forcible sex crimes against a child under 14 AND first degree burglary.

See, the problem is that burglary is generally associated with people breaking and entering a home.  Mr. Garcia was an invited guest in sister-in-laws home.  California Penal Code section 459 notes that persons are guilty of burglary where:
Every person who enters any house...with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony is guilty of burglary.
Garcia argued that because sister-in-law invited him into her home, that he (Garcia) can do whatever he wanted in the house. It was the courts reasoning, however, that even though Mr. Garcia was an invited guest, that he did not have an unconditional possessory interest in the home.  Basically, just because you are a guest, you can't do whatever you want to whomever you choose to do it to.

What bothered me is issue of intent.  Specifically, if Garcia didn't have the requisite intent to commit a crime when he was invited into the home, how could he be guilty of burglary?  The court fixed this "problem" noting that because Garcia did not have an unconditional possessory interest in the home (since he was merely a guest), the crime was effectuated when he entered the niece's bedroom with the intent to rape niece.  Since niece did not say, "sure come on in and rape me," Garcia was a uninvited guest in (or into) niece's bedroom and, as such, was convicted of burglary.

Wow, that's stretch but again, I'm not complaining.  It's great that the court got it right (this time) and caged this animal for life.  What's funky is how they got to their conclusion.  Further still is that the court seemed to really, REALLY want to nail this guy when it noted that:
Our homes are sanctuaries, places of refuge and safety.  When we invite another into our home, we trust him not to harm us or those who reside with or visit us there... because we expect to be safe in our homes and with our invited guests, an invitee who preys on someone within our home is as dangerous and as heinous as the burglar who intrudes by picking the lock or climbing in the window.
Clearly, the court had it out for this guy and needed to make a statement based on how some things have been going on. Specifically, if you are invited into someone's home (or car, or airplane, or wherever), don't jack around and start stealing stuff or messing with the sanctity of that person's possessory interest.  Be a good guest, keep your hands to yourself, don't wander around and cause problems, and remember to say thank you when you leave. 

So, kudos to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  You did good, today.