Legal Definition of Structure In New Mexico
New Mexico has extensively addressed burglary, specifically defining the term "structure."
In State v. Sanchez, 105 N.M. 619, 735 P.2d 536, 537, cert. denied, 105 N.M. 618, 735 P.2d 535 (1987), two defendants, Landlee and Sanchez, challenged their burglary convictions, arguing entry into separately secured portions of buildings otherwise open to the public did not qualify as unauthorized entry.
Landlee entered the loading dock area of an auto parts retail store without authorization. Sanchez entered a hospital office where he stole a purse containing cash, credit cards and other valuables. 735 P.2d at 537.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the convictions applying a more liberal and broader interpretation, securing property and protecting possessory rights. 735 P.2d at 537-39.
The New Mexico burglary statute provides:
Burglary consists of the unauthorized entry of any vehicle, watercraft, aircraft, dwelling or other structure, movable or immovable, with the intent to commit any felony or theft therein.
A. Any person who, without authorization, enters a dwelling house with intent to commit any felony or theft therein is guilty of a third degree felony.
B. Any person who, without authorization, enters any vehicle, watercraft, aircraft or other structure, movable or immovable, with intent to commit any felony or theft therein is guilty of a fourth degree felony. N.M. Stat. Ann. 30-16-3 (Michie 1994).
Two years later, the New Mexico Court of Appeals held a soft drink vending machine did not satisfy the definition of a structure in the burglary statute. State v. Bybee, 109 N.M. 44, 781 P.2d 316, 318 (1989).
Three vending machines, each with a locked door and money change box, were outside a grocery store and not anchored or attached to the building. 781 P.2d at 316.
Looking to common law and the expansion of the term "structure" to include possessory rights and define prohibited space, the court determined the legislature did not intend a soft drink machine to fall within the burglary statute. 781 P.2d at 318.
"Although the legislature may include specific objects or places under the proscription of the burglary statute, the court may not enlarge or amend the statute by judicial fiat." 781 P.2d at 319. Absent specific language in the statute evincing the intent to include such structures under the statute, the court was unable to affirm the conviction. 781 P.2d at 318.
In State v. Gregory, 117 N.M. 104, 869 P.2d 292, 292 (1993), cert. denied, 117 N.M. 215, 870 P.2d 753 (1994), Gregory entered a post office lobby open to the public and removed mail from a mailbox.
The back of each box opened into the post office mail sorting room, which was not open to the public. 869 P.2d at 292. the court held that removing mail from a post office box constituted burglary because the box opened into the sorting room for the mail, which the court held was a separately secured area. 869 P.2d at 293.
The court also rejected the defendant's argument that it was physically impossible to enter the sorting room through the mailbox opening, therefore burglary was impossible. Id.
Under New Mexico law, the size of the box is irrelevant. Id. See State v. Jacobs, 102 N.M. 801, 701 P.2d 400, 401-04 (1985) (burglary accomplished by lowering bomb through roof of vent).
Unlike the vending machine in Bybee, the post office box was not an isolated structure and encompassed both the boxes and the sorting area, thus the burglary occurred when Gregory entered the separately secured area. Gregory, 869 P.2d at 293.