Giles v. Commonwealth (2009) – Case Brief Summary (Virginia)

In Giles v. Commonwealth, 277 Va. 369, 672 S.E.2d 879, 881 (2009), as a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court of Virginia held that "a dwelling house is a house that one uses for habitation as opposed to another purpose."

The defendant in Giles appealed his sentence for burglary under Virginia's Code section 18.2-89, claiming that the building that he broke into was not a "dwelling house" because no one was living there at the time of the offense and it was not being regularly used for sleeping. Id. at 371-72.

Code section 18.2-89 provides, in pertinent part, "if any person break and enter the dwelling house of another in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, he shall be guilty of burglary." The home that was broken into was described as a house that had furniture in three bedrooms, the living room, family room and kitchen. Id. at 371.

The owner, whose primary residence was in Baltimore, Maryland, "had his own sleeping quarters in the house, and he kept food in the pantry, cabinets, and refrigerator. The house had operational utility services, including electricity and water.

During the break in, the defendant took food, quilts, blankets, sheets, towels, bathroom supplies, two televisions, and a videocassette recorder from the house." Id.

The Supreme Court of Virginia held that "a house is a dwelling house pursuant to Code §18.2-89 when the house is used for habitation, including periodic habitation. Periodic habitation does not require that the house be used at regular intervals. Rather, periodic habitation requires that when the house is used, it is used for the purpose of habitation. Thus, a dwelling house is a house that one uses for habitation, as opposed to another purpose." Id.