Alleged 'bulldozer rampage' brings deadly-weapon burglary charges

Did you know that a criminal charge exists called burglary with a deadly weapon? It's true -- here in Alabama, the offense is just part of our statute against burglary. Essentially, burglary is defined as unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a felony, and Alabama, like many states, ups the ante if the person is "armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument."

When lawmakers put the phrase "deadly weapon or dangerous instrument" in the statute, they were trying to be reasonably broad, but they probably weren't thinking of a bulldozer. That, however, is the weapon one man is accused of using in a case in Washington state.

According to reports, the man was evidently involved in a fence-line dispute with a neighbor, and certain non-criminal threats were issued. After a confrontation, however, the man apparently got into a logging bulldozer, ran down the fence in question -- and then tried to run down the neighbor, forcing the man to jump aside or be struck by the blade.

That didn't end the matter -- prosecutors say the man continued on a 10-minute rampage. He crushed his neighbor's pickup truck and ran it over three times, ran into a power pole, and destroyed three houses, two of which were owned by the neighbor. His wife was inside one of the houses, but she got out just in time. No one was injured in the incident.

An estimate by the local sheriff's office puts the damage at around $300,000. The man is now facing a host of criminal charges, including four counts of first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon -- "to wit, a bulldozer," according to the criminal complaint. He also faces four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of malicious mischief. He has pled not guilty.

"I had no idea that these charging documents would be so creative," commented his criminal defense attorney.

Assuming these events were accurately related, there's little doubt the man should have been criminally charged -- but with burglary? He certainly damaged three houses, and it could be argued that he unlawfully entered the homes, but did he intend to commit a felony afterwards? It seems more likely he intended nothing of the sort -- the crime was complete by the time he "entered" the houses. Perhaps "breaking and entering" would have been more appropriate?

Source: Peninsula Daily News, "Man pleads not guilty to charges in bulldozer attack," Paul Gottlieb, May 15, 2013

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