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People v. Montoya

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant was convicted of burglary based on a theory of aiding and abetting after entering an inhabited home. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant may be found guilty of aiding and abetting a principal actor’s burglary so long as the defendant formed the requisite intent for the burglary before the principal actor left the building.

    Facts.

    Rosario Montoya (Defendant) was charged with burglary based on a theory of aiding and abetting after entering an inhabited home with Raymond Gaxiola. Under California law, a person commits a burglary by unlawfully entering a building with an intent to commit a felony within the building. The trial court issued jury instructions on the elements of burglary, as well as aiding and abetting. No instructions were given to explain the point in time at which Defendant must have formed an intent to encourage or facilitate the burglary in order to be convicted on the basis of aiding and abetting. Defendant was convicted of the burglary and appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury sua sponte that, in order to be convicted, Defendant must have formed the requisite intent before or at the time of Gaxiola’s entry into the building. Defendant asserted that, because a burglary is accomplished when a perpetrator enters a building with felonious intent, a person may only be found guilty of aiding and abetting if the person formed the intent to commit, encourage, or facilitate the burglary before the principal actor’s entry. The court of appeal affirmed Defendant’s conviction, finding that there was no duty for the trial court to issue such an instruction to the jury sua sponte. Defendant appealed again, and the Supreme Court of California granted Defendant’s petition for review.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant may be found guilty of aiding and abetting a principal actor’s burglary so long as the defendant formed the requisite intent for the burglary before the principal actor left the building.

    Held.

    Yes. The court of appeals’ ruling is affirmed. A defendant may be found guilty of aiding and abetting a principal actor’s burglary so long as the defendant formed the requisite intent for the burglary before the principal actor left the building.

    Discussion.

    In cases where potential liability is based on the concept of aiding and abetting, it is well recognized that a defendant’s intent to encourage or aid an offense must be formed before or during the execution of the aided or abetted crime. It is therefore important to determine the duration of the related offense in order to determine whether the defendant formed the requisite intent for the crime prior to or during the commission of the crime. Under People v. Cooper, 53 Cal.3d 1158 (1991), determining the duration of an offense requires a consideration of the interests that the criminal statute is meant to protect. Applying the Cooper analysis here, the primary purpose of a burglary statute is to protect occupants from the dangers arising from a burglary, particularly the possibility that the burglar will hurt the occupants inside. Second, the statute also serves to protect occupants from property damage. These perils do not cease upon the perpetrator’s unlawful entry but continue until the perpetrator leaves the building. Therefore, a defendant who aids a perpetrator may be convicted as an aider and abettor of the burglary if the defendant formed the intent to encourage or assist in the commission of the burglary before the principal actor exited the building. Here, the trial court had no duty to instruct the jury sua sponte about the requisite time requirements related to the formation of intent for aiding and abetting unless Defendant had requested such instructions.


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