Parking Lots May Be Structures In Burglary Cases

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

State v. Olivero, decided June 29th, resulted in a unanimous opinion from the New Jersey Supreme Court deciding the question:

Does a parking lot constitute a structure as would make someone criminally liable for burglary under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2a?

N.J.S.A. 2C:18‑2a insofar as it is applicable to this case reads as follows:

A person is guilty of burglary if, with purpose to commit an       offense therein the person:

(1)    Enters a (research facility) (structure), or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof, unless the (research facility) (structure) was at the time open to the public or the person is licensed or privileged to enter; or

(2)    Surreptitiously remains in a (research facility) (structure) or a separately secured or occupied portion thereof knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so.

The answer is ‘yes’ if it is secured from the public and used for a business. In this case the defendant broke into a secured parking lot that was attached to a warehouse for a storage business. The business stored metal shafts and printing rollers that are used in printing presses in the parking lot. The reason this is even a question is that the crime of burglary has been expanded and narrowed over time. The common law origins of burglary referred to people’s homes and was considered a more serious offense than mere theft because people live in their homes. After a while state law drifted away from those origins and became more expansive. In 1979 the State Legislature narrowed the definition to apply to occupied structures (structures are assumed occupied at night regardless of whether they actually are occupied). In 1989 the Legislature amended the definition to remove the “occupied” requirement. So it is understandable why confusion exists.

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