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Grimes v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia

October 31, 2014

LEVIN GRIMES
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA.

Charles E. Haden for appellant.

Victoria Johnson, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Page 263

[288 Va. 315] PRESENT: All the Justices

OPINION

CYNTHIA D. KINSER, CHIEF JUSTICE

The defendant, Levin Grimes, appeals his conviction of statutory burglary in violation of Code § 18.2-91. Specifically, Grimes challenges [288 Va. 316] the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction, asserting that the Commonwealth proved only that he went into a " crawl space" underneath a dwelling house and failed to prove that he broke and entered into the actual dwelling house. Because the crawl space was structurally part of the dwelling house, we will affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Virginia upholding the conviction.

RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

The crawl space at issue in this appeal is situated underneath a one-story, brick house located in the City of Newport News. Built into the lower, exterior back wall of the house, a small, square door opens into an area containing plumbing, wiring, insulation, and ductwork. This space is enclosed within the structure of the house, under the same roof, but contains no direct access to any other portion of the house. Entry to this space is gained only through the small door located in the exterior wall of the house.

On June 18, 2012, two neighbors standing behind the house heard noises underneath it and noticed that the door leading to the crawl space was opened slightly. The neighbors observed Grimes and another man emerge from the crawl space covered in wet mud and sand and carrying several pieces of copper pipe under their arms. A police officer subsequently apprehended Grimes and found copper pipe, a flashlight, and three cutting tools upon his person. Additional police officers discovered identical copper pipe scattered throughout the house's yard and inside the crawl space. Police officers observed that the lock on the door to the crawl space had been cut and the door was open.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's evidence during a bench trial in the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News, Grimes moved to strike the statutory burglary charge, arguing that his conduct did not satisfy the requirements for statutory burglary because he " didn't actually go into the house," but rather, " went underneath the house." The circuit court denied the motion.

Page 264

Grimes presented no evidence but renewed his motion to strike. The circuit court found Grimes guilty of statutory burglary and other charges not relevant to this appeal. Grimes appealed his convictions to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court with regard to the statutory [288 Va. 317] burglary conviction,[1] concluding that because " the crawl space of the house is enclosed within the walls of the house" and because " [a]ccess to the crawl space is through a separate exterior door that is built into the lower part of one of the exterior walls of the dwelling house," the crawl space " thus physically ...


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