A fence a structure does not make

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has decided United States v. Wilson, __ M.J. __, No. 16-0267/AR, for the appellant.  The issue was:

Whether the military judge erred in denying the defense motion for appropriate relief under Rule for Court-Martial 917 where the military judge improperly applied Article 130, housebreaking, to a motor pool.

A unanimous court found that the military judge erred.

The accused was charged under Art. 130, UCMJ, with housebreaking by entering the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion motor pool at Fort Benning, Georgia, intending to steal batteries.  The motor pool “is a concrete lot completely surrounded by a fence. . . used for the storage and maintenance of the military property, including vehicles.” Slip op. at 3.  The CAAF finds that:

Both the commonsense meaning of “structure” within a housebreaking offense and the limiting language of the [Manual for Courts-Martial] leave us with no doubt that an open-air fenced area like the 3rd BTSB motor pool does not fall within the scope of Article 130, UCMJ, because it is not a structure in the nature of a building or dwelling.

Slip op. at 4.  According to the court, you can’t take a piece of land, put a fence around it, and then call it a structure similar to a house, building, or home.

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