State v. Office of the Pub. Defender, s. 32,430

Citation285 P.3d 622, 2012 -NMSC- 029
Case DateAugust 16, 2012
CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico

285 P.3d 622
2012 -NMSC- 029

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff–Respondent,
OFFICE OF the PUBLIC DEFENDER on Behalf of Abdul MUQQDDIN, Deceased, Defendant–Petitioner.

State of New Mexico, Plaintiff–Respondent,
Edgar Dominguez–Meraz, Defendant–Petitioner.

Nos. 32,430, 32,632.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

Aug. 16, 2012.

[285 P.3d 624]

Jacqueline L. Cooper, Chief Public Defender, Adrianne R. Turner, Assistant Appellate Defender, for Petitioners.

Gary K. King, Attorney General, Margaret E. McLean, Assistant Attorney General, Andrew S. Montgomery, Assistant Attorney General, Farhan A. Khan, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for Respondent.


BOSSON, Justice.

{1} These consolidated cases ask this court to address for the first time the outer limits of New Mexico's burglary statute, NMSA 1978, Section 30–16–3 (1971). In more than 40 years, this Court has issued only one burglary opinion and even then on a somewhat tangential issue. See State v. Gonzales, 78 N.M. 218, 430 P.2d 376 (1967). By contrast, over that same time our Court of Appeals has issued numerous opinions that, for the most part, have expanded significantly the reach of the burglary statute, an expansion that has occurred without any parallel change in the statute. The opinions before us now illustrate the unprecedented scope of that expansion, which presents this Court with an opportunity to undertake a review of our burglary jurisprudence. We begin with burglary's common-law origins and the principles that inspired the development of that crime both at common law and later by legislative enactment. We look behind the words of the burglary statute, searching for the thoughts that gave birth to the text. Ultimately, we conclude that our case law has gone astray, and that we must alter our course, beginning with the two opinions before us. Accordingly, we reverse.


{2} As burglary has evolved from its common law origins, it has become increasingly difficult to discern general principles that can be applied in all cases. What has been created appears to be more of a patchwork body of law that applies to the particular situation presented rather than guiding principles to be applied to all cases. This Court is not without its share of responsibility, as we have repeatedly declined to grant certiorari to address such issues as they arose. This does not mean, however, that we must continue down that path.

{3} As the crime of burglary has continued to expand, it seems at times to have transformed into an enhancement for any crime committed in any type of structure or vehicle, as opposed to a punishment for a harmful entry. In the past, the typical burglary scenario involved a home invasion, and the crime was intended to protect occupants against the terror and violence that can occur as a result of such an entry. People v. Davis, 18 Cal.4th 712, 76 Cal.Rptr.2d 770, 958 P.2d 1083, 1089 (1998). Yet today it has become more common to add a burglary charge to other crimes where the entry itself did not create or add any potential of greater harm than the completed crime. Our Legislature has never expressed an intent that burglary be used as an enhancement, nor has it clearly authorized the steady progression of judicial expansion of burglary as seen over the past 40 years. After setting forth the undisputed facts underlying each conviction, we proceed to examine the evolution of burglary in New Mexico to inform our analysis of whether these two cases and others like them truly fit within the statutory meaning of burglary.


{4} The facts of each case are largely undisputed, only the legal effects of those facts are at issue.

Abdul Muqqddin

{5} In the early morning hours of August 21, 2005, Albuquerque Police Officer John Friedfertig was responding in his squad car to a loud noise call. En route, Officer Friedfertig noticed some suspicious, loud banging coming from an alley. Officer Friedfertig stopped to investigate and found Defendant Abdul Muqqddin 1 lying under a van. Officer Friedfertig saw a red gas can under the van

[285 P.3d 625]

with gasoline dripping from the van's gas tank into the gas can. After being placed into custody, Defendant Muqqddin admitted using a nail or a piece of metal to puncture the gas tank and take the gas.

{6} Defendant Muqqddin was charged with five separate counts for his actions—auto burglary; criminal damage to property; possession of burglary tools; larceny; and concealing identity—and a jury trial was held. At the close of the State's case, Defendant Muqqddin moved for a directed verdict on all charges. The district court granted the motion in regard to the possession of burglary tools charge, but denied the motion in regard to the other charges. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all the remaining charges, including auto burglary.

{7} Defendant Muqqddin appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, “arguing that puncturing the [g]as tank did not constitute an ‘entry’ under the burglary statute.” The Court of Appeals analogized the facts presented to the facts of both State v. Rodriguez, 101 N.M. 192, 679 P.2d 1290 (Ct.App.1984), and State v. Reynolds, 111 N.M. 263, 804 P.2d 1082 (Ct.App.1990), involving an entry into the open bed of a pickup truck and the engine compartment of a vehicle respectively. State v. Muqqddin, 2010–NMCA–069, ¶ 8, 148 N.M. 845, 242 P.3d 412. The Court, relying primarily on those two prior cases, reasoned that “[a] fuel tank—attached as it is, to a vehicle—is unquestionably a part of that vehicle.... Any penetration of a vehicle's perimeter is thus a penetration of the vehicle itself.” Id. ¶ 11. The Court then held that “Defendant in this case reached into the fuel tank, albeit via an instrument, in order to remove fuel,” which is sufficient to support a conviction for burglary. Id.

{8} The Court of Appeals also rejected Defendant Muqqddin's reliance on out-of-state authority, most notably R.E.S. v. State, 396 So.2d 1219 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1981). In R.E.S., the Florida District Court of Appeal rejected the idea that siphoning gas amounts to burglary under Florida law. Id. at 1220. That Court reasoned that all prior Florida vehicle burglary cases “involved the entry into a compartment of a vehicle which can be entered either wholly or partially by a person; e.g., engine and passenger compartments, trunks, etc.” Id. The Muqqddin Court distinguished that case by stating that while “burglary in Florida contemplates the entry of a vehicle compartment large enough to accommodate at least a part of a person” but it is “[n]ot so in New Mexico, where a slight entry by use of an instrument is sufficient.” 2010–NMCA–069, ¶ 13, 148 N.M. 845, 242 P.3d 412.

Edgar Dominguez–Meraz

{9} Before his trial, Defendant Edgar Dominguez–Meraz filed a motion to dismiss the burglary charge filed against him. He was charged with burglary for allegedly removing the two rear wheels of a vehicle and the lug nuts of the front wheels. The motion acknowledges that Defendant Dominguez–Meraz was one of two individuals apprehended near a vehicle missing two rear tires and the lug nuts from the front wheels. He argued, however, even if those facts were true, as a matter of law he could not be convicted of burglary for those actions because there was no entry as required by the statute. The district court agreed with Defendant Dominguez–Meraz and ordered the burglary charge dismissed.

{10} The State appealed the dismissal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. In a memorandum opinion relying on Muqqddin, 2010–NMCA–069, 148 N.M. 845, 242 P.3d 412, the Court of Appeals reversed. State v. Dominguez–Meraz, No. 30,382, slip op. at 1, 2010 WL 4924003 (N.M.Ct.App. Sept. 15, 2010). The Court relied on the same language quoted above from Muqqddin, that “[a] fuel tank ... is unquestionably a part of that vehicle.... Any penetration of a vehicle's perimeter is thus a penetration of the vehicle itself.” Dominguez–Meraz, No. 30,382, slip op. at 1(quoting Muqqddin, 2010–NMCA–069, ¶ 11, 148 N.M. 845, 242 P.3d 412.).

{11} Again, the Court declined to follow some of the same out-of-state authorities presented in Muqqddin.Id. The Court declined to follow Drew v. State, 773 So.2d 46 (Fla.2000), which held that the removal of hubcaps and tires from a vehicle is not burglary, concluding that “Florida's interpretation of

[285 P.3d 626]

its burglary statute [is] unpersuasive.” Dominguez–Meraz, No. 30,382, slip op. at 1. Again, the Court held that “in New Mexico a slight entry by use of an instrument is sufficient” and as a result the “removal of a vehicle's wheels is sufficient to constitute burglary in violation of Section 30–16–3(B).” Dominguez–Meraz, No. 30,382, slip op. at 1 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Proceedings Before This Court

{12} Before this Court, both parties argued primarily over whether each defendant's actions amounted to an “entry” under New Mexico law. In addition, we asked the parties for additional briefing addressing NMSA 1978, Section 30–16D–5 (2009), Injuring or Tampering with a Motor Vehicle, and whether the Legislature intended to punish the conduct presented in the present cases under that statute. For the reasons that follow, we hold that a vehicle's gas tank and wheel wells do not constitute a protected space under Section 30–16–3 and as a result cannot be burglarized under the statute as presently drafted.

DISCUSSIONStandard of Review

{13} This case requires us to construe New Mexico's burglary statute, Section 30–16–3. Accordingly:

[s]tatutory construction is a matter of law we review de novo. Our primary goal is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. In doing so, we examine the plain language of the statute as well as the context in which it was promulgated, including the history of the statute and the object and purpose the Legislature sought to accomplish. We must take care to avoid adoption of a construction that would render the statute's application absurd or...

To continue reading

Request your trial
107 cases
  • State v. Wilson, S-1-SC-38510
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • June 7, 2021
    ...Ejusdem generis is both a common law rule of construction, see State v. Off. of the Pub. Def. ex rel. Muqqddin , 2012-NMSC-029, ¶¶ 29-31, 285 P.3d 622 (defining and applying ejusdem generis), and a statutory rule under Section 12-2A-20(A) of our Uniform Statute and Rule Construction Act, NM......
  • State v. Wood, A-1-CA-38469
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • December 6, 2021
    ...of first impression: whether our Supreme Court's 2012 holding in State v. Office of Public Defender ex rel. Muqqddin , 2012-NMSC-029, 285 P.3d 622, applies retroactively to bar use of Defendant's prior felony burglary conviction to enhance a subsequent sentence arising from unrelated charge......
  • Quinn v. Young, 13–2074.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • March 13, 2015
    ...v. Muqqddin, 148 N.M. 845, 242 P.3d 412, 416 (2010), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. State v. Office of Pub. Defender ex rel. Muqqddin, 285 P.3d 622 (N.M.2012).B1 Framed in the light of these standards, the salient Fourth Amendment questions presented are (1) whether the Officers possessed ......
  • Sanchez v. Melendrez, 11 CV 657 MV/RHS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • March 28, 2013
    ...P.3d 412, 416 (N.M.Ct.App.2010) (citation omitted) ( rev'd on other grounds sub nom. State v. Office of Public Defender ex rel. Muqqddin, 285 P.3d 622 (N.M.2012)). “Abandoned property is defined as property to which the owner has relinquished all right, title, claim and possession.” Spearte......
  • 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