of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Swanson, Attorney General, Edwin W. Stockmeyer, Assistant
Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Shane D. Baker,
Kandiyohi County Attorney, Willmar, Minnesota, for
respondent. Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public
Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and
Hood Langel, Brian J. Kluck, Special Assistant Public
Defenders, McCollum, Crowley, Moshet, Miller & Laak,
Ltd., Minneapolis Minnesota, for appellant.
Gildea, C.J. Concurring, Lillehaug, Chutich, and McKeig, JJ.
guest commits burglary when he enters another guest's
room without consent and commits theft in that room.
GILDEA, Chief Justice.
question presented in this case is whether appellant Lionel
Lopez committed burglary when he entered another guest's
hotel room without consent and committed a crime in that
room. Following a court trial, the district court found Lopez
guilty of first-degree burglary. A divided court of appeals
affirmed Lopez's conviction. Because we conclude that a
hotel guest commits a burglary if he or she exceeds the scope
of consent by entering another guest's hotel room and
committing a crime while in the other guest's room, we
case arises from a theft at a motel in Willmar. On the night of
the theft, Z.D. was sharing a room with a co-worker. The
co-worker left the room while Z.D. took a shower. Because
they had only one key to their room, Z.D. left the door
opening onto the hallway unlatched while he showered. When
Z.D. finished his shower, he discovered that his cell phone
and wallet were gone, and he called the police.
State's evidence established that on the night of the
theft, Lopez was also a guest at the hotel and was seen
wandering the halls and checking hotel room doors to see if
they were locked. When he came to Z.D.'s room, Lopez
found the door unlatched and entered the room. Lopez took a
cell phone and a wallet containing $42 in cash that he found
in Z.D.'s room.
an investigation, the State charged Lopez with first-degree
burglary, Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(a) (2016), and
theft, Minn. Stat. § 609.52 (2016). Lopez waived his
right to a jury trial, and following a bench trial, the
district court found Lopez guilty of both offenses.
appeal, Lopez argued that the State failed to prove an
essential element of burglary: that he entered a building
without consent. Specifically, Lopez contended that
although a hotel is unquestionably a building, the individual
rooms within it are not separate buildings. Lopez argued
that, because he was a paying guest at the hotel, he had
consent to enter the hotel building and therefore could not
commit burglary while in the hotel. The State disagreed with
Lopez's interpretation of the burglary statute and argued
that an earlier case addressing the scope of consent,
State v. McDonald, 346 N.W.2d 351 (Minn. 1984),
controlled. A divided court of appeals affirmed Lopez's
burglary conviction. State v. Lopez, 897 N.W.2d 295,
299 (Minn. 2017). We granted Lopez's petition for review.
appeal, Lopez argues that his burglary conviction should be
reversed because the evidence is insufficient. We use the
same standard of review to evaluate the sufficiency of the
evidence in bench trials and jury trials. State v.
Palmer, 803 N.W.2d 727, 733 (Minn. 2011). We will not
overturn a verdict, " 'if, giving due regard to the
presumption of innocence and the prosecution's burden of
proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury could
reasonably have found the defendant guilty of the charged
offense.' " State v. Chavarria-Cruz, 839
N.W.2d 515, 519 (Minn. 2013) (quoting State v.
Leake, 699 N.W.2d 312, 319 (Minn. 2005)). In determining
whether the evidence presented is sufficient, "it is
often necessary to interpret a criminal statute."
State v. Vasko, 889 N.W.2d 551, 556 (Minn. 2017).
grounds his sufficiency-of-the-evidence argument in the
first-degree burglary statute, and he contends that the State
failed to prove an essential element of first-degree
burglary. In order to prove that Lopez committed first-degree
burglary, the State must prove, among other things, that
Lopez "enter[ed] a building without consent and with
intent to commit a crime, or enter[ed] a building without
consent and commit[ed] a crime while in the building."
Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1 (2016). A building, in
turn, is defined as "a structure suitable for affording
shelter for human beings including any appurtenant or
connected structure." Minn. Stat. § 609.581, subd.
argues that he did not commit burglary when he entered
Z.D.'s hotel room because, as a guest of the hotel, he
had permission to be in the hotel building. He contends that
Z.D.'s hotel room was not a separate building but was
rather part of the hotel building, a building in which Lopez
had consent to be. Lopez also argues that a hotel room cannot
be a separate building because that would be contrary to the
common understanding of what the word "structure"
means. Instead, he claims that a hotel room is merely a
connected structure located within the overall hotel
building, rather than a separate building.
State disagrees with Lopez's interpretation, and contends
that Z.D.'s hotel room was a separate building under the
burglary statute. Because "structure" means
anything assembled out of component parts, and a hotel room
is a structure suitable for affording shelter to human
beings, the State argues that each hotel room is a separate
building. Independent of its statutory interpretation
argument, the State urges us to affirm Lopez's conviction
based on our analysis in State v. McDonald, 346
N.W.2d 351 (Minn. 1984).
not necessary to resolve the statutory interpretation issue
the parties present in this case. Even if we assume that
Lopez's interpretation is correct-that a hotel room is
not a separate building under the definition of building in
Minn. Stat. § 609.581, subd. 2- we agree with the State
that McDonald is dispositive.
defendant in McDonald entered a drugstore during
business hours, but at a time when the pharmacy inside was
closed. Id. at 352. He went into a storage area
"that was off limits to the general public and from
there tried to gain access to the locked pharmacy for the
purpose of stealing controlled substances." Id.
Under the statute in effect at that time, a person committed
a burglary if he or she, among other things, "enter[ed]
a building without consent . . . [and] with the intent to
commit a crime in it." Minn. Stat. § 609.58, subd.
affirmed McDonald's burglary conviction.
McDonald, 346 N.W.2d at 352. In so doing, we did not
decide if the storage room constituted a separate building
under the burglary statute. Instead, we held that the
burglary was complete once McDonald exceeded the scope of his
license to be present in the drugstore by entering a
nonpublic area of the store-the storage room-with the intent
to commit a crime. Id. We recognized that consent to
enter a building may be limited to specific areas.
Accordingly, a person enters a building without consent under
the burglary statute when he or she enters a portion of a
building where they do not have permission to be. Consistent