STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v . Nos. 05 CRS 50392
05 CRS 50393
NICHOLAS LYNN HIGGINS 06 CRS 79
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
Kimberly D. Potter, for the State.
William B. Gibson for defendant-appellant.
Nicholas Lynn Higgins (defendant) appeals from a judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of felonious breaking and entering. We find no error.
Evidence presented at trial showed that defendant and Brandon Silvers (Silvers), both 18 years old, were friends living in Yancey County. On 7 April 2005, defendant and Silvers were walking past a cabin owned by Jeanne Constable (Constable). They approached the cabin and looked inside, seeing a hot tub and a burning night light. Realizing that the cabin's electricity was on, they decided that it would be an ideal location for a party.
Defendant and Silvers continued on their way, but returned approximately one hour later. Defendant found a ladder underConstable's porch, pushed it up against a window, and climbed up to the window. Once there, defendant broke the window and entered the home. Once inside, defendant and Silvers called some friends to arrange the party. Both men slept in Constable's house that evening.
The following day, 8 April 2005, defendant and Silvers got Silvers' brother, Josh, to provide them with transportation to pick up two 15-year-old girls, Sarah Maher (Maher) and Wendy Grindstaff (Grindstaff). They went first to a convenience store, where they purchased beer and raspberry-flavored alcoholic beverages, then to Silvers' house, where Josh dropped them off. The teens then proceeded to Constable's cabin.
Thinking defendant and Silvers had permission to use the house for a party, the girls followed them into the house and went to an upstairs bedroom, drinking and talking. After finishing their beers, defendant and Silvers went downstairs in search of more alcohol. They found several unlabeled bottles of liquor in a cabinet, brought them upstairs, and consumed them.
Defendant and Silvers became intoxicated and Silvers smashed a glass picture frame, prompting Maher and Grindstaff to send the men downstairs while they cleaned up the mess. As they cleaned up, the girls could hear the sound of additional glass being broken. They went downstairs, where they witnessed defendant break a sliding glass door with his hand. The girls then discovered that defendant and Silvers did not have permission to use the house. The girls, accompanied by Silvers, left the house, leaving defendant alone inside.
Defendant, by this time, had become very drunk, and he proceeded to do tremendous damage to the property. He stated that he did not remember what he had done, although he did recall breaking a picture. Defendant did not deny that the other acts of vandalism occurred while he was there. Defendant slept in the house the night of 8 April 2005, leaving the following morning.
Defendant was indicted for felonious breaking and entering, felonious larceny, injury to real property, and injury to personal property. Following a trial in Yancey County Superior Court, a jury found defendant guilty of felonious breaking and entering, injury to real property, and injury to personal property exceeding $200.00. The jury found defendant not guilty of felonious larceny. Judge James L. Baker, Jr., entered judgment upon the jury verdicts, sentencing defendant to a minimum of eight months and a maximum of ten months imprisonment for felonious breaking and entering, thirty-five days for injury to real property, and forty-five days for injury to personal property. From the judgment entered upon the jury verdict finding him guilty of felonious breaking and entering, defendant appeals.
On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred by not granting his motions to dismiss at the close of the State's evidence and the close of all evidence, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that defendant had the intent to commit any felony or larceny once inside. Defendant contends that when he broke into Constable's house, he did not have the intent to do anything besides have a party.
Our courts have established the following standard in reviewing a trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss:
In ruling upon a motion to dismiss, the trial court must examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, giving the State the benefit of all reasonable inferences which may be drawn from the evidence. The court must determine whether substantial evidence supports each essential element of the offense and the defendant's perpetration of that offense. If so, the motion must be denied and the case submitted to the jury. 'Substantial evidence' is that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
State v. Hairston, 137 N.C. App. 352, 354, 528 S.E.2d 29, 30 (2000) (internal citations omitted). Thus, we must determine whether there was substantial evidence presented to support each essential element of felonious breaking and entering.
North Carolina defines felonious breaking and entering as breaking or entering any building with intent to commit any felony or larceny therein[.] N.C. Gen. Stat. . 14-54(a) (2005). The intent must exist at the time of the breaking or entering. State v. Costigan, 51 N.C. App. 442, 276 S.E.2d 467 (1981).
Our courts have recognized that intent can be inferred from a defendant's actions. State v. Bell, 285 N.C. 746, 750, 208 S.E.2d 506, 508 (1974). It is also generally true that a defendant's intent to commit larceny can be inferred from his breaking into the home of another. State v. Dawkins, 305 N.C. 289, 287 S.E.2d 885 (1982). Here, there was undisputed evidence that defendant broke and entered Constable's property, and that he consumed Constable's food and liquor and inflicted horrendous damage to her property. However, defendant contends there was no evidence that he intended to commit any felony or larceny at the time he broke and entered. We disagree.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, we determine there was evidence sufficient for a jury to find that defendant intended to consume the food and beverages in Constable's home. The evidence regarding defendant's breaking and entering and subsequent misconduct, in light of the inferences allowed under cases such as Bell and Dawkins, made it proper for the jury to determine whether defendant possessed the requisite intent at the time of the breaking and entering. Although defendant's larceny does not prove he possessed the requisite intent at the time he broke and entered, it is evidence that he intended to commit larceny after breaking and entering. As such, the judgment of the trial court should remain undisturbed.
Judges GEER and JACKSON concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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