If good fences make good neighbors, then bad fences make bad convictions. So said the state Supreme Court in a unanimous decision handed down last week.The facts: Roger Dean Engel entered the partially fenced yard of a Maple Valley business called Western Asphalt and stole some aluminum car wheels—or rims, in the parlance of our times. The King County Prosecuting Attorney charged him with second-degree burglary, and the trial court convicted him. But burglary requires entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime. The law says a fenced area can be a building, but doesn't define what a fenced area is. The Supreme Court ruled it has to be fenced all the way around; the Western Asphalt yard had a fence on one side and "sloping terrain" on the other.Thus, says the court, the conviction must be vacated and the case dismissed. While a theft charge would seemingly apply to taking the rims, Engel can't be retried on a lesser charge. But King County Prosecutor spokesperson Dan Donohoe says his office may appeal to the state legislature for clarification on the meaning of "fenced area." The meaning of "rim job gone bad" will remain open to interpretation.
Stealing rims might be illegal, but its not burglary unless certain conditions are met, says the state Supreme Court.