St. Joseph, Michigan, Burglary Case Upheld by Court of Appeals
The Michigan Court of Appeals published a case recently, People v. Osby, which upheld the conviction of a defendant for breaking into several motor vehicles in and around St. Joseph, Michigan, and for possessing burglar tools, a felony punishable by up to ten (10) years in prison.
The defendant was arrested after police reviewed surveillance footage showing an African American man walking toward the vehicle of one of the victims from a white van. That white van was later tracked to a motel where the defendant was staying. A search of the defendant hotel room revealed items belonging to the victims and marijuana. The police arrested the defendant and discovered a window punch when they searched him.
A window punch, or window hammer, is a small, sharply pointed object that is used to shatter the window of a vehicle to provide quick access or escape. It is often carried by emergency personnel and police responding to automobile accidents. On appeal, the defendant questioned whether this window punch could be considered a burglar tool to support a conviction of possession of burglar tools contrary to MCL 750.116. The statute makes it a crime to knowingly possess any device, tool, or substance used for forcing or breaking open any building, room, vault, safe or other depository to steal property therein. The defendant argued that the statute did not apply to automobiles. However, the court of appeals ruled that a depository was a catch-all phrase which included motor vehicles or any place a person would leave money or valuables for safekeeping. Because the average person locks his or her car doors assuming the contents of the vehicle will be safe, the court determined that a vehicle can be considered a depository under the statute.
The defendant appealed on several other grounds as well, but the court of appeals found no error in the conviction or sentence.
Read the statute and the Michigan Court of Appeals’ opinion on the State of Michigan website.
* Please note: Every case is different, and there may be some aspect of your particular case which may result in an outcome other than is described above. This post is not intended as legal advice and may not apply to your particular case. It is always best to contact our office for a consultation if you have been or believe you may be charged with a crime.