California Landmark Cases on Burglary of an Inhabited Dwelling Place

"Burglary of an inhabited dwelling house . . . is burglary of the first degree." ( 460, subd. (a).) For our purposes, "'inhabited' means currently being used for dwelling purposes, whether occupied or not." ( 459.) This term has been interpreted broadly to achieve the legislative purpose of providing increased protection for one's home. (People v. Aguilar (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 966, 970 (Aguilar).) The societal interests involved in protecting an inhabited dwelling include (1) the potential danger that an unexpected intruder will harm the occupants or will be harmed by occupants reacting violently to the invasion and (2) the "'most secret zone of privacy'" where people store their personal belongings, heirlooms and mementos. (People v. DeRouen (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 86, 91 (DeRouen), overruled on other grounds by People v. Allen (1999) 21 Cal.4th 846, 864.) To determine whether a house is inhabited, "we look to the intent of the occupier . . . ." (People v. Marquez (1983) 143 Cal.App.3d 797, 801 (Marquez).) "A house remains inhabited even if the burglary occurs while the residents are away for an extended period of time." (People v. Cardona (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 481, 483 (Cardona); see Marquez, supra, 143 Cal.App.3d at pp. 800, 802 house is inhabited because the house was maintained as a residence and there was no evidence the resident, or her conservators on her behalf, had vacated or abandoned the house to live somewhere else, even though the resident who was under a conservatorship had moved to a boarding house as much as two and half years earlier and there was a doubt whether she would return; People v. Meredith (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 1257, 1260, 1268 (Meredith) aged occupant was hospitalized for multiple months, then moved to a skilled nursing facility, and possibly even removed from life support shortly before burglary, but his home was still inhabited because he expressed desire to maintain the house and to keep it as is because he planned to return; DeRouen, supra, 38 Cal.App.4th 86, 92 a vacation or second home is inhabited even where it is resided in only "sporadically" but is used to store some heirlooms and mementos.) And, a previously inhabited dwelling "'does not become "uninhabited" . . . until the residents leave never again intending to return to use the dwelling as sleeping quarters.'" (DeRouen, supra, at p. 91; see Aguilar, supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at pp. 971-972 where man is forced to relocate to a hotel following a severely damaging apartment fire, but believes he will return to live in the apartment once it is fixed, the apartment remains inhabited, even if the man learns after the burglary that he will not be able to return.) Whether a house was inhabited is a question of fact. (People v. Burkett (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 572, 582.) In reviewing a defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is evidence that is credible, reasonable, and of solid value such that a reasonable jury could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Rodriguez (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1, 11 (Rodriguez).) We do not reassess the credibility of witnesses, and we draw all inferences from the evidence that support the jury's verdict. (People v. Olguin (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th 1355, 1382.) Unless it is physically impossible or inherently improbable, the testimony of a single witness is sufficient to support a conviction. (People v. Young (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1149, 1181.)