Burglary in SC – What Does “Appurtenant To” Mean?

What does “appurtenant to” mean?

In State v. Massey, the SC Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Massey’s burglary first charges (technically, the court quashed the indictment).

Massey was accused of entering a storage building on the alleged victim’s property and stealing a four-wheeler. The state charged him with burglary first-degree, arguing that the storage building was “appurtenant to” the dwelling, and therefore the storage building should be considered a dwelling.

What does “appurtenant to” mean? And, why does it matter?

What’s the Difference Between Burglary First, Second, and Third Degree in SC?

To understand what “appurtenant to” means and why it is important, we first need to look at how SC law defines the three degrees of burglary.

Burglary in SC is when a person enters a dwelling or a building, without consent, and with the intent to commit a crime at the time they enter the dwelling or building.

What’s the difference between a dwelling and a building for purposes of SC’s burglary laws?

dwelling is a place where a person lives or sleeps – “the living quarters of a building which is used or normally used for sleeping, living, or lodging by a person.”

The penalties for breaking into a place where a person lives are substantially higher (up to life in prison) because there is a greater danger of physical violence and because it is a greater intrusion into the victim’s privacy and security.

building is a place where people do not live or sleep – usually a storage building or a commercial business.

Burglary Third Degree

If a person burglarizes a building and there are no aggravating factors present, they can only be charged with third-degree burglary, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Burglary Second Degree

If a person burglarizes a building and there are aggravating factors present (it happened at night, the defendant had a weapon during the burglary, someone was injured during the burglary, or the defendant has two or more prior convictions for burglary), they can be charged with second-degree burglary, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

If a person burglarizes a dwelling and there are no aggravating factors present, they are charged with the “other” second-degree burglary, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

Burglary First Degree

If a person burglarizes a dwelling and there are aggravating factors present, the person can be charged with first-degree burglary, which carries a minimum penalty of 15 years and up to life in prison.

You can see why it makes a difference whether you are charged with first, second, or third-degree burglary – read on to see how “appurtenant to” can change the potential sentence from life in prison to ten or even five years.

What Does “Appurtenant To” Mean?

So, what happens if a person burglarizes a garage, shed, or outbuilding that is on the same property as a dwelling? Is it considered a dwelling, even though no one lives in or sleeps in the structure?

SC Code Section 16-11-10 says that a person can be charged with first-degree burglary if they enter a structure that is within two hundred yards of and appurtenant to the dwelling house:

With respect to the crimes of burglary and arson and to all criminal offenses which are constituted or aggravated by being committed in a dwelling house, any house, outhouse, apartment, building, erection, shed or box in which there sleeps a proprietor, tenant, watchman, clerk, laborer or person who lodges there with a view to the protection of property shall be deemed a dwelling house, and of such a dwelling house or of any other dwelling house all houses, outhouses, buildings, sheds and erections which are within two hundred yards of it and are appurtenant to it or to the same establishment of which it is an appurtenance shall be deemed parcels.

“Appurtenant to” is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as something that is “annexed to a more important thing.” Black’s defines “annexed” as “something that is attached to something else, such as a document to a report or an addition to a building.”

The state argued that they should be able to charge Massey with first-degree burglary because the shed – that contained tools and a four-wheeler, had a sign for a business on it, and that no one lived in – was within two hundred yards of the alleged victim’s home.

But the burglary statute is clear that to qualify for first-degree burglary, the structure must be both 1) within two hundred yards and 2) appurtenant to the home. The SC Supreme Court has clarified this before, although the case cited by the Massey court was decided 137 years ago, in State v. Evans, 18 S.C. 137, 140 (1882):

It was long ago held in this State that “a house to be parcel of the mansion-house, must be somehow connected with or contributory to it, such as a kitchen, smoke-house or such other as is usually considered as a necessary appendage of a dwelling-house. It cannot embrace a store, blacksmith shop, or any other building separate from it and appropriated to another and a distinct use.”

So, a shed on someone’s property, although it is within 200 yards of the home, is not “appurtenant to” the home unless it is attached to the home or a “necessary appendage” of the home. A garage would almost certainly qualify, but not an unattached storage shed used for someone’s business tools.

Why Did the State Charge Massey with First-Degree Burglary?

And why did they appeal the court’s quashing of the burglary indictment?

  • They did not bother to read the burglary statutes and case law on outbuildings; or
  • They didn’t care and they really want to hurt Massey regardless of what the law says.

Maybe they overcharged Massey, assuming he would plead guilty to the lesser charge of burglary second degree (that he should have been charged with in the first place), and then got hurt feelings when he declined to plead guilty and insisted on his constitutional right to a jury trial?

What Will Happen Now?

Massey is probably not going to walk away with a clear dismissal. The indictment was flawed because the facts did not fit the statutory definition of first-degree burglary, but it was not dismissed with prejudice. Most likely, the state will be able to seek a new indictment that complies with the law, and Massey will either plead guilty or go to trial on burglary second-degree charges.

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington, SC

Lacey Thompson only accepts criminal defense cases in the Myrtle Beach, Lexington, and Columbia SC areas, including burglary charges.

If you have been charged with a crime or think that you are under investigation, call the Thompson Defense Firm now at 843-444-6122 or send us an email to set up a free consultation.

what does appurtenant to mean

One Response to “Burglary in SC – What Does “Appurtenant To” Mean?

  • Word Smith
    11 months ago

    Let’s say you’re a deprived five year old, further desperate for some chocolate. Do you pick the candy store with armed guards, or do you go for the candy store with the half blind albino on the gimp behind the counter?

    Point being, thieves put some forethought into the crime they’re looking to commit, further weigh the balance of reward and risk. Therefore, if the item in question was sitting in the living room, then first degree would likely be an applicable charge (though I believe law has evolved past the good of anyone but attorneys). For any fool knows that the average southerner has a firearm or twenty readily at hand.

    However, this item was sitting in the equivalent of a garage; thus, easily accessible, further quite far from earshot and gunshot; therefore, he wasn’t looking for a violent encounter, nor do I suspect that he came prepared for one; therefore, where’s the aforethought for violence? Thus, the whole thing is rather petty; less the cost of the item.

    In truth, it’s a bit like arresting and charging a guy for committing a marriage proposal. He might some day give a gal a wack. Or worse, get a wack himself and be arrested anyways; thus, since marriage may lead to violence, should it be outlawed altogether? Should there be first, second, and third degree marriage? Should the jewelers conduct background checks? Should the probate court take mugshots and fingerprints on top of a blood test? Well; less the blood test in a state where you can still marry your second cousin, be they he/she she/she, or whatever diversion to and away from any notion of normal/lawful a Nihilist might make.

    Implying that the thief in question was violent, just because he stole something, is absurd; especially when applying the equivalent of real estate law to the equation. Then again, so is marriage by the same reasoning and associated risks; for it has become the most dangerous thing financially, physiologically, and constitutionally that a guy can subject himself to. However, in a state where it’s legal to give a child of any age alcohol, so long as it was legally purchased and all applicable taxes paid, I can’t help but wonder if whether or not the legislature is playing with a full deck to begin with. For even a five year old would know better…

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