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State v. McHenry

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 12, 2017

State of Indiana, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Amber E. McHenry, Appellee-Defendant.

         Appeal from the Huntington Circuit Court. The Honorable Thomas M. Hakes, Judge. The Honorable Karen A. Springer, Senior Judge.

          Attorneys for Appellant Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Ian McLean

          Attorney for Appellee Mark Small

          Friedlander, Senior Judge

         [¶1] The State of Indiana appeals the trial court's grant of Amber McHenry's motion to dismiss her Level 2 felony charge of burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, in which the trial court essentially determined that a handgun obtained in the course of a burglary cannot support the elevated charge of burglary while armed with a deadly weapon under Indiana Code section 35-43-2-1(3)(A). We affirm.

         [¶2] The State presents one issue for our review, which we restate as: whether the trial court erred when it granted McHenry's motion to dismiss the charge of burglary while armed with a deadly weapon.

         [¶3] In October 2015, Andrew Stoffel returned home to discover that his residence had been burglarized and that a handgun with three magazines and a safe containing coins and other small items had been taken. In May 2016, McHenry was charged with Count 1 burglary as a Level 2 felony and Count 2 burglary as a Level 4 felony[1] for her alleged involvement in the crime.

         [¶4] The following August, McHenry filed a motion to dismiss the Level 2 felony charge of burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, claiming that because the handgun was obtained in the course of the burglary it could not serve to elevate the burglary charge. Following a hearing, the trial court granted McHenry's motion. The State then filed a motion to stay the proceedings, which the trial court also granted. The State now appeals the trial court's grant of McHenry's motion to dismiss, and we are thus called upon to interpret Indiana Code section 35-43-2-1(3)(A).

         [¶5] The primary purpose of statutory interpretation is to determine and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Adams v. State, 960 N.E.2d 793 (Ind. 2012). The best evidence of legislative intent is the language of the statute itself. Chambliss v. State, 746 N.E.2d 73 (Ind. 2001). If the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, we must apply its plain and ordinary meaning without resort to any other rules of statutory construction. Adams, 960 N.E.2d 793.

         [¶6] When a statute is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, it is ambiguous, and we resort to the rules of statutory construction in order to give effect to the legislature's intent. Id. Penal statutes must be construed strictly against the State, with any ambiguities resolved in favor of the defendant. Chastain v. State, 58 N.E.3d 235 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), trans. denied. Criminal statutes should not be enlarged by construction beyond their fair meaning; yet, they should not be so narrowly construed as to exclude cases they fairly encompass. Id.

         [¶7] Indiana Code 35-43-2-1(3)(A) provides:

A person who breaks and enters the building or structure of another person, with intent to commit a felony or theft in it, commits burglary, a Level 5 felony. However, the offense is:
. . . .
(3) a Level 2 felony if ...

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