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State v. Wentz

Washington Supreme Court
68 P.3d 282 (2003)


Gerald Lee Wentz (defendant) climbed over a man's backyard fence, intending to attack the man when he returned home. Police arrested Wentz and the State of Washington (plaintiff) prosecuted him for burglary, which was statutorily defined as entry with criminal intent into another person's building. "Building" meant "any dwelling, fenced area, vehicle, railway car, cargo container, or any other structure used for lodging or for carrying on business therein, or for the use, sale or deposit of goods." The state's trial evidence did not establish the purpose for which the backyard had been fenced. The jury convicted Wentz, and an appellate court affirmed the conviction. Wentz appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. Wentz based his appeal on a 1967 case that arose under an earlier burglary statute. The earlier statute made no mention of fenced areas, and the court held in 1967 that the state must prove that a fenced area's main purpose was analogous to the purpose of structures to which the burglary statute specifically applied.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ireland, J.)

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