July 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Because Defendant Broke Into Apartment Building Solely to Evade Police, Burglary Charge Unwarranted

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Poindexter on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

Burglary—Obstructing a Peace Officer—Predicate Offense—Vehicular Eluding—Recklessness—Motion for New Trial—Evidence—Sentencing—Habitual Criminal—Prior Convictions.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction and sentence entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of burglary, first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding, obstructing a peace officer, and two habitual criminal counts. The judgment and sentence were affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded.

Defendant and another man accosted a woman and stole her car. Defendant drove the car while police officers gave chase. At one point, defendant leapt from the moving car. He then ran to an apartment building and broke into the building to hide from the police.

On appeal, defendant contended that his conviction for second-degree burglary must be vacated because it was based on a crime—obstructing a peace officer—that was not a crime against another person or property. Defendant’s intent on entering the building was to avoid capture, and he hid once he was inside. Because defendant did not threaten the body of anyone, including the peace officer, the offense could not be used as a predicate offense for second-degree burglary. Therefore, the sentence related to this offense was reversed and the conviction was vacated.

Defendant also argued that (1) his conviction for vehicular eluding must be vacated because the evidence was insufficient to establish that he drove the car in a reckless manner; and (2) consequently, his conviction for aggravated motor vehicle theft also must be vacated because it was based on the offense of vehicular eluding. Defendant drove the vehicle through a residential neighborhood at a high rate of speed. He bailed out of the vehicle while it was still moving, and the car crashed with the passenger still inside. This evidence amply demonstrated the recklessness of defendant’s conduct as necessary to establish the offense of vehicular eluding.

Defendant further contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The differences between the victim’s testimony in the two trials would serve merely to impeach her credibility. Evidence of these differences was not of such consequence that it would likely produce an acquittal. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant’s motion for a new trial.

Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings that he previously had been convicted of two felonies for the purposes of sentencing him as a habitual criminal. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding the records of defendant’s prior convictions (pen pack) to be duly authenticated for purposes of the habitual offender charges. Furthermore, information contained in the pen pack linked it to defendant through some combination of his name, date of birth, and inmate number. This was sufficient evidence that defendant was the person named in the prior conviction for possession of a controlled substance. Finally, defendant was not prejudiced by any minor discrepancies in this information and it was proper for the judge to determine these facts.

Summary and full case available here.