State v. McPherson: Residential Burglary Involving A Dwelling/Business.

What to Do Before, During, and After a Jewelry Store Robbery

In State v. McPherson, the Court of Appeals Division II decided the legal issue of whether a jewelry store and attached apartment is a “dwelling” under the definition of Residential Burglary. In short, the Court decided this was an issue of fact for a jury to decide; and that there was sufficient evidence for the conviction.

On the morning of March 20, 2013, someone broke into Frederick William Salewsky’ s jewelry store by entering the unoccupied store next door and making a hole in the adjoining wall. Frederick Salewsky, who worked in the jewelry store and lived in an apartment above the store, was awoken by a noise, went downstairs to investigate, and interrupted the burglary. He shot the intruder, who fled. The police later identified McPherson as a suspect after he checked into a Tacoma hospital with a gunshot wound.

The State charged McPherson with Burglary Second Degree of the vacant store ( count I), Residential Burglary of the jewelry store (count II) and Malicious Mischief Second Degree. The jury found McPherson guilty as charged and found that he had committed the Residential Burglary while the victim was present in the building or residence.

Under RCW 9A.52.025(1), a person is guilty of Residential Burglary if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or proerty therein, the person enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling other than a vehicle. “Dwelling” means any building or structure, or a portion thereof, which is used or ordinarily used by a person for lodging.

The Court reasoned that whether a building is a “dwelling” cannot always be determined as a matter of law. Because the specific living arrangements in houses and businesses are so different, this issue was more appropriately a question of fact for the jury to decide. Here, the evidence support’s the jury’s determination that the building was a “dwelling” as the apartment was directly above the jewelry store because the apartment and jewelry store were within a single structure, the only access to the apartment was through the jewelry store, and the doors that separated the store from the apartment could not be locked or secured.

The court concluded that altogether, this evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that the apartment was not separable from the jewelry store and, therefore, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’ s finding that the jewelry constituted a dwelling.

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