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Ridley v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia
Mar 2, 1979
219 Va. 834 (Va. 1979)

Summary

holding that in the absence of evidence of a contrary intent, the trier of fact may infer that a defendant's unauthorized presence in a house or building of another in the nighttime was with intent to commit larceny

Summary of this case from Griffin v. Commonwealth

Opinion

43771 Record No. 780768.

March 2, 1979

Present: All the Justices.

Intent to commit larceny under Code Sec. 18.2-91 implied from breaking and entering storehouse during nighttime; evidence sufficient to convict.

(1) Criminal Law — Larceny — Breaking and Entering Storehouse with Intent to Commit (Code Sec. 18.2-91) — Proof of Intent Necessary.

(2) Criminal Law — Intent — Definition — Inference from Facts and Circumstances.

(3) Criminal Law — Larceny — Breaking and Entering Storehouse with Intent to Commit (Code Sec. 18.2-91) — Trier of Fact may Infer that Unauthorized Presence in Building of Another In Nighttime was with Intent to Commit Larceny.

(4) Criminal Law — Evidence — Sufficient to Sustain Conviction of Breaking and Entering Storehouse with Intent to Commit Larceny.

Defendant was found inside a storehouse by police answering a silent burglar alarm. A plate glass window had been broken in a way to permit entry. Defendant was found in the building but did not have any merchandise in his possession nor was there an indication that the merchandise had been tampered with or moved. Defendant was charged under Code Sec. 18.2-91 with breaking and entering a storehouse with intent to commit larceny and waived trial by jury. His motion to strike the evidence was overruled. He offered no evidence and was convicted. He argues on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the breaking and entering was with the specific intent to commit larceny.

1. Where, as in Code Sec. 18.2-91 (breaking and entering dwelling house, etc., with intent to commit larceny, etc.), the statute makes an offense consist of an act combined with a particular intent, proof of intent is as necessary as proof of the act itself and must be established as a matter of fact.

2. Intent is the purpose formed in a person's mind which may, and often must be, inferred from the facts and circumstances in a particular case. The state of mind of an alleged offender may be shown by his acts and conduct.

3. When one breaks and enters a storehouse, the presumption is that the entry was made for an unlawful purpose. The specific intent with which such entry was made may be inferred from the surrounding facts and circumstances. In the absence of evidence showing a contrary intent, the trier of fact may infer that a defendant's unauthorized presence in a house or building of another in the nighttime was with intent to commit larceny.

4. Here the evidence warranted an inference that defendant's unauthorized presence in a house or building of another in the nighttime was with the specific intent to commit larceny, and was sufficient to sustain the conviction.

Appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk. Hon. W. Moultrie Guerry, judge presiding.

Affirmed.

William L. Perkins, III (Sacks and Sacks, on brief), for appellant.

Robert H. Herring, Jr., Assistant Attorney General (Marshall Coleman, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.


Walter Lee Ridley, the defendant, was charged in an indictment with breaking and entering in the nighttime the storehouse of Home Furniture Company with intent to commit larceny. Defendant waived trial by jury, was found guilty as charged by the court, and was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary, with four years suspended.

Code Sec. 18.2-91.

The defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the breaking and entering of the storehouse was with the specific intent to commit larceny. He argues that the Commonwealth failed to present any evidence of specific intent.

The evidence shows that on November 25, 1977 at approximately 9:30 p.m., units from the Norfolk Police Department responded to a silent burglar alarm at the Home Furniture Company. Upon arrival, the police officers found that a plate glass window on the north side of the building had been broken. The hole was large enough for a man to walk through. The window apparently had been broken by a large piece of cinder block which was found embedded in a stereo displayed just inside the broken window. The owner of the business arrived shortly thereafter and unlocked the door to the main entrance of the building so the officers and a police dog could enter. Defendant was found in the southwest corner of the building. When apprehended, defendant did not have in his possession any of the store's merchandise, and there was no indication that any merchandise had been tampered with or moved.

The company's president testified that the building had been secured at the close of business on the night of the breaking and that no one had been given permission to enter the premises.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealth's evidence, defendant moved the court to strike the evidence. The motion was overruled, and the defendant presented no evidence.

Code Sec. 18.2-91 provides, in pertinent part, that if any person enter a storehouse in the nighttime "with intent to commit larceny, or any felony other than murder, rape or robbery, he shall be deemed guilty of statutory burglary; . . ."

It is elementary that where, as here, the statute makes an offense consist of an act combined with a particular intent, proof of such intent is as necessary as proof of the act itself and must be established as a matter of fact. Patterson v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 698, 699, 213 S.E.2d 752, 753 (1975); Dixon v. Commonwealth, 197 Va. 380, 382, 89 S.E.2d 344, 345 (1955).

Intent is the purpose formed in a person's mind which may, and often must, be inferred from the facts and circumstances in a particular case. The state of mind of an alleged offender may be shown by his acts and conduct. Hargrave v. Commonwealth, 214 Va. 436, 437, 201 S.E.2d 597, 598 (1974); Johnson v. Commonwealth, 209 Va. 291, 295, 163 S.E.2d 570, 574 (1968).

In Tompkins v. Commonwealth, 212 Va. 460, 461, 184 S.E.2d 767, 768 (1971), the defendant was convicted of breaking and entering a dwelling house in the nighttime with intent to commit murder. There, we said that when an unlawful entry is made into a dwelling of another, the presumption is that the entry was made for an unlawful purpose, and the specific intent with which such entry was made may be inferred from the surrounding facts and circumstances. This same principle is equally applicable to breaking and entering a storehouse in the nighttime with intent to commit larceny.

The rule, as applied in most jurisdictions, is that in a prosecution of burglary with intent to commit larceny, the state must prove the specific intent to steal beyond a reasonable doubt, although it may and frequently must prove such intent by the facts and circumstances. In the absence of evidence showing a contrary intent, the trier of fact may infer that a defendant's unauthorized presence in a house or building of another in the nighttime was with intent to commit larceny. Massey v. United States, 320 A.2d 296, 300 (D.C. 1974); Garcia v. People, 172 Colo. 329, 473 P.2d 169 (1970); People v. Davis, 54 Ill. App.3d 517, 523, 369 N.E.2d 1376, 1382 (1977); State v. Clay, 213 N.W.2d 473 (Iowa 1973); Commonwealth v. Wygrzywalski, 362 Mass. 790, 792, 291 N.E.2d 401, 402 (1973); 13 Am.Jur.2d Burglary Sec. 52, at 352-53 (1964); 12 C.J.S. Burglary Sec. 55, at 732 (1938).

In the present case, the evidence warranted an inference that defendant's unauthorized presence in the furniture store in the nighttime was with the specific intent to commit larceny. An ordinary mind will take cognizance of the fact that people do not break and enter a closed store containing personal property in the nighttime with innocent intent. Where there is no explanation or evidence of a different intent, as here, the intelligent mind will infer that entry was with the intent to steal property in the store.

We hold that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant broke and entered the Home Furniture Store building with the specific intent to commit larceny. Thus, the conviction will be

Affirmed.


Summaries of

Ridley v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia
Mar 2, 1979
219 Va. 834 (Va. 1979)

holding that in the absence of evidence of a contrary intent, the trier of fact may infer that a defendant's unauthorized presence in a house or building of another in the nighttime was with intent to commit larceny

Summary of this case from Griffin v. Commonwealth

affirming a conviction of breaking and entering with the intent to commit larceny even though defendant had no stolen merchandise in his possession and there was no indication that any merchandise had been tampered with or moved when police apprehended him in the victim's store

Summary of this case from Siquina v. Com

breaking and entering a storehouse

Summary of this case from Black v. Commonwealth

explaining that absent any "explanation or evidence of a different intent, as here, the intelligent mind will infer that entry was with the intent to steal property in the store[house]"

Summary of this case from Bourne v. Commonwealth

In Ridley, appellant broke into a store in the nighttime, triggering a silent alarm, and was arrested within the building.

Summary of this case from Vincent v. Commonwealth

In Ridley, appellant broke into a store in the nighttime, triggering a silent alarm, and was arrested within the building.

Summary of this case from Vincent v. Commonwealth

In Ridley, appellant broke into a store in the nighttime, triggering a silent alarm, and was arrested within the building.

Summary of this case from Vincent v. Commonwealth

In Ridley, the Supreme Court affirmed the defendant's conviction for breaking and entering the storehouse of a furniture company with intent to commit larceny.

Summary of this case from Sandoval v. Commonwealth
Case details for

Ridley v. Commonwealth

Case Details

Full title:WALTER LEE RIDLEY v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

Court:Supreme Court of Virginia

Date published: Mar 2, 1979

Citations

219 Va. 834 (Va. 1979)
252 S.E.2d 313

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