A Pennsylvania teen who broke into a woman's home by kicking in her front door will be charged only with criminal mischief, and more importantly, he is still alive. Earlier this week, 19 year old Cory R. Gootee of York County left a friend's house to smoke a cigarette. He was so intoxicated that he ended up trying to enter the wrong house. When he discovered the door was locked, he decided to kick it in, which would have been inappropriate even if it were his friend's house, but much worse when it is the home of an unsuspecting neighbor.
A 31 year old woman was waiting at the door with her hand gun drawn when Gootee burst through her doorway. She commanded him to not come any closer, and called 911 to report a burglary in progress. Gootee retreated to his friend's front porch, where police found him. Gootee explained to the police that he was simply confused due to his intoxication, and the police found his story to be credible. Although he could have been charged with a second degree felony charge of criminal trespass, the victim asked police to charge Gootee only with the summary offense of criminal mischief, which entails destroying or damaging another person's property without permission.
If convicted of criminal mischief, Mr. Gootee will have to pay restitution for damage to the door. Although the magisterial district judge could sentence him to up to 90 days in jail, most people found guilty of a summary offense are ordered to pay a fine, court costs and restitution.
My hat goes off to both the victim and the police in this case. Many people in the victim's shoes would have panicked and shot Mr. Gootee, and such a response would have been completely legal under the circumstances pursuant to Pennsylvania law. Not only did she keep her cool, she also was gracious enough to request that the police not slap the teen with a serious felony charge. I also praise the police for respecting the feelings of the victim.
Mr. Gootee will have a record if he pleads guilty to criminal mischief, but a summary offense is in the least serious category of crime in Pennsylvania. It is not a fingerprintable offense and he will not accrue any prior record score points, the way he would if he were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. If Mr. Gootee is not prosecuted for any new criminal offenses in the next five years, he could file a motion to expunge his criminal mischief record at that time.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania. He has had his share of cases involving drunk people entering the wrong house, apartment or dorm room.http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Theft-and-Property-Crimes.shtml