Just because a house under construction isn’t finished and lacks key features doesn’t mean it’s not a dwelling under state law in New Mexico, making burglary of a residence a crime, an appellate court ruled.

A New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled Thursday for the first time in a case from San Juan County, upholding Albert Dell Shelby's conviction for residential burglary of a home that was enclosed and had a complete exterior but had an incomplete interior and lacked utility services.

Shelby's appeal argued that there wasn't sufficient evidence that the property was actually used as living quarters by its owner, an oil industry worker who stayed there part time when not working out of state.

The Court of Appeals ruling concluded that the unfinished state of the home didn't determine its status and that there was enough evidence that it provided its owner with habitation “in a regular, yet intermittent, way."

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Richard Reinders

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