State v. Crutcher

313 N.J. Super. 203, 713 A.2d 40 (App. Div. 1998)
  • Opinion Date: June 16, 1998

DEFINITIONS; DWELLING—For purpose of the burglary statute, a “dwelling” must be in use or usable and an unhabitable structure lacking utilities does not qualify as such.

This case deals with an appeal from a conviction of criminal trespass, a lesser-included offense of the original charge of burglary. To make criminal trespass a crime of the fourth degree, it is required that a person, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, enters or remains in any dwelling. The criminal statute does not define the term “dwelling.” Looking outside of the statute, the Court determined that a dwelling was a private house, a place where a person resides and sleeps. In testimony, the owner of the property said that at the time of the arrest, the building in question had been unoccupied for nearly a year. Not only was the building vacant at the time of the arrest, the house was essentially uninhabitable. There was no electricity nor other utilities, including running water. Consequently, in the Court’s view, the house in this case should not have been considered as a dwelling for purposes of the fourth-degree criminal trespass charge. The structure lost its character as a dwelling when it sat vacant for a substantial period.