Willmar man loses appeal to high court
WILLMAR -- A Willmar man who argued that he committed a theft, but not a burglary, when he stole items from a room in the motel where he was staying has lost his appeal of the burglary conviction to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
WILLMAR - A Willmar man who argued that he committed a theft, but not a burglary, when he stole items from a room in the motel where he was staying has lost his appeal of the burglary conviction to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, the state's highest court affirmed the District Court's conviction of Lionel Lopez, 34, for burglary in 2016. He is currently serving a five-year sentence at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility for the burglary and theft convictions in Kandiyohi County.
Lopez was staying at the Super 8 Motel in Willmar in November 2016 when he entered the unlocked room of another motel occupant and took the man's wallet containing $42 and cellphone. The victim was in the shower and had left the door unlocked for a co-worker since they had only one key for the room, according to the court's account.
Lopez argued that the state's 1983 burglary statute defines burglary as entering a building without consent. As a guest of the motel, Lopez said he had consent to be in the building.
In an April 2017 decision affirming the conviction, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that separate rooms or "subunits'' of a facility meet the definition of a building and he did not have consent to be in the other man's room.
The Supreme Court did not rely on that interpretation, but instead cited a case in which a man was convicted of burglary for entering a non-public area of a drugstore to take items. In the McDonald case, the court determined that a burglary occurred when the defendant "exceeded the scope of his license to be present in the drugstore by entering a non-public area of the store - the storage room - with the intent to commit a crime."
Lopez had the consent of the Super 8 to be in common areas and in the room he rented, "but he did not have consent to enter other, non-public areas of the hotel,'' the court wrote in its decision.
"Lopez therefore entered a building without consent" when he entered the other man's room, and when he stole property in it ... "he committed a burglary," the court concluded.
In an opinion accompanying the decision, Justice David Lillehaug concurred with the decision, but stated that the phrase "enters a building without consent" is ambiguous. Nevertheless, he argues that the Legislature intended the existing burglary statute to cover Lopez's conduct: "unconsented entry of a portion of a building with intent to commit a crime." Lillehaug was joined by Justices Margaret Chutich and Anne McKeig in his opinion.