It doesn’t matter what you thought.

Ingram v. State (Published): Ingram was convicted of burglary of a habitation.  Based on a prior burglary conviction, his punishment range was enhanced, and he was sentenced to thirty-six years plus a $4,000 fine.  Ingram contents that his conviction should be overturned because he didn’t think the building was a habitation — he thought it had been abandoned.  He requested a jury instruction on this “mistake of fact” but that request was denied by the trial court.

The trial court was right to deny the requested instruction.  The only “intent” part of a burglary of a habitation charge is entry with intent to steal.  Ingram had intent to steal.  The crime does not require intent to enter a habitation.  So whether Ingram thought this building was inhabited or not is irrelevant.  You break in with intent to steal, you take your chances on the legal status of the building.

In this case, though, it’s easy to see how Ingram thought his thoughts did matter.  The State requested a jury charge that asked the jury to find that Ingram “intentionally or knowingly enter[ed] a habitation.”  Even so, the Tyler court held that: “Because this erroneous requirement was not an element of the offense or necessary to support a conviction, the mere fact that it was included in the jury instructions did not expand the rights of Appellant such that he was entitled to a mistake of fact instruction.”

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