State v. Engel, No. 81072-9.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Writing for the CourtJ. Johnson
Citation166 Wn.2d 572,210 P.3d 1007
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Roger Dean ENGEL, Petitioner.
Docket NumberNo. 81072-9.
Decision Date09 July 2009
210 P.3d 1007
166 Wn.2d 572
STATE of Washington, Respondent,
v.
Roger Dean ENGEL, Petitioner.
No. 81072-9.
Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc.
Argued March 26, 2009.
Decided July 9, 2009.

Vanessa Mi-jo Lee, Washington Appellate Project, Seattle, WA, for Petitioner.

James Morrissey Whisman, King County Prosecutor's Office, Seattle, WA, for Respondent.

[210 P.3d 1008]

J.M. JOHNSON, J.


¶ 1 Roger Dean Engel stole some wheels from a large private yard that was partially enclosed by a fence and partially bordered by sloping terrain. Engel was convicted of burglary in the second degree, which requires entering or remaining in a "building." RCW 9A.52.030. A "building" is statutorily defined to include a "fenced area." RCW 9A.04.110(5). Engel challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, claiming the yard was not a "fenced area" in the sense intended by the legislature. We agree and reverse his conviction.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 2 Roger Engel was convicted of burglary in the second degree, a felony. RCW 9A.52.030. The charge arose out of the theft of aluminum auto wheels from the business premises of Western Asphalt. Western Asphalt is located in a rural, unincorporated area of King County consisting mostly of undeveloped acreage and farms. The business premises cover between seven and eight acres and include several buildings and a large yard. The entrance to the property is gated. The wheels taken were in the yard near a shed. The theft occurred at night when the business was closed and the front gate was locked. Security cameras did not prove how the thieves entered the yard.

¶ 3 One-third of the property is fenced by chain link fence with barbed wire on the top. This includes the front of the property (i.e., the side fronting the road), as well as a section of property between the front and piles of rock and gravel located "down a distance" from the front.1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Mar. 21, 2006) at 118. The rest of the property is not fenced, including the edge of the property near the stock piles. Beyond the gravel piles there is a "pretty sizeable drop-off, a hill that goes down." VRP at 119. Two-thirds of the property is encased by similar terrain, including "banks, high banks, [and] sloping banks." VRP at 130.2 These banks slope both up and down from the property.

¶ 4 Directly adjacent to Western Asphalt is its aggregate supplier, a separate business. The fence on the front of Western's property extends along the front of its supplier's property as well. No fence or gate separates the two properties. The two properties are connected by an internal service road.

¶ 5 The trial court instructed the jury that to find Engel guilty of burglary in the second degree, there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in a building. The court also instructed that "[b]uilding, in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes any fenced area." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 20. The jury was also instructed that if they could not find Engel guilty of burglary in the second degree, they could consider whether he was guilty of the lesser included crime of criminal trespass in the second degree, a misdemeanor. CP at 24; see RCW 9A.52.080. The jury found Engel guilty of burglary in the second degree, and the trial court entered judgment. CP at 32-37.

¶ 6 Engel appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that he unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in a building or fenced area. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished decision. State v. Engel, noted at 141 Wash.App. 1006, 2007 WL 2985088. Engel sought review on the sufficiency of the evidence issue with this court, which was granted.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 7 This case is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence at trial. To determine whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determine whether any rational fact finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Wentz, 149 Wash.2d 342, 347, 68 P.3d 282 (2003). Interpretation of a statute is a question

210 P.3d 1009

of law that we review de novo.3 Id. at 346, 68 P.3d 282.

ANALYSIS

¶ 8 Washington's burglary statute provides that "[a] person is guilty of burglary in the second degree if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, he enters or remains unlawfully in a building other than a vehicle or a dwelling." RCW 9A.52.030. "`Building', in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes any ... fenced area,...." RCW 9A.04.110(5). "Fenced area" is not defined in the criminal code.

¶ 9 In State v. Roadhs, 71 Wash.2d 705, 707-08, 430 P.2d 586 (1967), superseded by statute as stated in State v. Wentz, 149 Wash.2d 342, 68 P.3d 282 (2003), burglars were apprehended in an area that was fully enclosed by building walls and a cyclone fence topped by barbed wire. The burglary statute in effect at the time applied to any dwelling house, building or other structure containing certain kinds of property. Wentz, 149 Wash.2d at 348, 68 P.3d 282 (citing former RCW 9.19.020 (1909)). At the time, the definition of "building" did not include "fenced area." Id. (citing former RCW 9.01.010(18) (1909)). Thus, we declined to find that a fenced area was a "building" for purposes of the burglary statute. Id. (citing Roadhs, 71 Wash.2d at 707-08, 430 P.2d 586). Instead, we found that the fenced area qualified as an "other structure." Id. at 349, 68 P.3d 282. Citing the maxim noscitur a sociis,4 we reasoned that

where the fence is of such a nature that it is erected mainly for the purpose of protecting property within its confines and is, in fact, an integral part of a closed compound, its function becomes analogous to that of a "building" and the fence itself constitutes a "structure" subject to being burglarized.

Roadhs, 71 Wash.2d at 708-09, 430 P.2d 586. This became the "Roadhs main purpose test" for determining whether a fenced area could support a burglary charge. Wentz, 149 Wash.2d at 350, 68 P.3d 282.

¶ 10 In 1975, the legislature enacted a new definition of "building" that, for the first time, explicitly included "fenced area." Id. Wentz was our first opportunity to apply the new definition in the context of the burglary statute. Id. at 348, 68 P.3d 282. Wentz had climbed a fence into the backyard of a residential home. Id. at 345, 68 P.3d 282. The fence was six-feet tall, solid wood, and surrounded the backyard. Id. The fence had two gates, both of which were padlocked. Id. The police officer who apprehended Wentz had to climb the fence to enter the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
356 practice notes
  • Randy Reynolds & Assocs., Inc. v. Harmon, No. 95575-1
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 25, 2018
    ..." Lake v. Woodcreek Homeowners Ass’n , 169 Wash.2d 516, 526, 243 P.3d 1283 (2010) (quoting State v. Engel , 166 Wash.2d 572, 578, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ; Rest. Dev., Inc. v. Cananwill, Inc. , 150 Wash.2d 674, 682, 80 P.3d 598 (2003) ). ¶ 29 To properly determine Harmon’s claim, it is critica......
  • Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County v. County of Spokane, No. 84108–0.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 29, 2011
    ...are similarly reviewed de novo. State v. Kintz, 169 Wash.2d 537, 545, 238 P.3d 470 (2010) (quoting State v. Engel, 166 Wash.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009)). Grants of summary judgment are reviewed de novo, and we engage in the same inquiry as the trial court. Lallas v. Skagit County, 167......
  • State v. Yishmael, No. 96775-0
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • February 6, 2020
    ...at 506, 198 P.3d 1021 ; State v. Garcia , 179 Wash.2d 828, 837, 318 P.3d 266 (2014) (citing State v. Engel , 166 Wash.2d 572, 578-79, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ). ¶37 It is the role of the legislature to legislate. CONST. art. II. The state bar act memorializes our legislature’s attempt to regul......
  • State v. Lawson, No. 44744–4–II.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • December 30, 2014
    ...most favorable to the State. State v. Homan, 181 Wash.2d 102, 105, 330 P.3d 182 (2014) (citing State v. Engel, 166 Wash.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ). The relevant question is “ ‘whether any rational fact finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a 340 P.3d 98......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
356 cases
  • Randy Reynolds & Assocs., Inc. v. Harmon, No. 95575-1
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 25, 2018
    ..." Lake v. Woodcreek Homeowners Ass’n , 169 Wash.2d 516, 526, 243 P.3d 1283 (2010) (quoting State v. Engel , 166 Wash.2d 572, 578, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ; Rest. Dev., Inc. v. Cananwill, Inc. , 150 Wash.2d 674, 682, 80 P.3d 598 (2003) ). ¶ 29 To properly determine Harmon’s claim, it is critica......
  • Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County v. County of Spokane, No. 84108–0.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 29, 2011
    ...are similarly reviewed de novo. State v. Kintz, 169 Wash.2d 537, 545, 238 P.3d 470 (2010) (quoting State v. Engel, 166 Wash.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009)). Grants of summary judgment are reviewed de novo, and we engage in the same inquiry as the trial court. Lallas v. Skagit County, 167......
  • State v. Yishmael, No. 96775-0
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • February 6, 2020
    ...at 506, 198 P.3d 1021 ; State v. Garcia , 179 Wash.2d 828, 837, 318 P.3d 266 (2014) (citing State v. Engel , 166 Wash.2d 572, 578-79, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ). ¶37 It is the role of the legislature to legislate. CONST. art. II. The state bar act memorializes our legislature’s attempt to regul......
  • State v. Lawson, No. 44744–4–II.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • December 30, 2014
    ...most favorable to the State. State v. Homan, 181 Wash.2d 102, 105, 330 P.3d 182 (2014) (citing State v. Engel, 166 Wash.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009) ). The relevant question is “ ‘whether any rational fact finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a 340 P.3d 98......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT