New Mexico's highest court upholds 5-year prison term in fingertip 'break-in'

Anthony Holt mugshot

A New Mexico man got five years in prison for breaking and entering -- without ever stepping foot inside the home. 

According to court documents, Anthony Holt partially removed a window screen from a resident's home in Las Cruces on Dec. 19, 2010. While removing the screen, he reportedly placed his fingers behind the screen and “inside an outer boundary of the home." He then "promptly" ran from the scene after the homeowner noticed. Holt was arrested and later indicted by a grand jury on one charge of breaking-and-entering, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.  

Defense lawyers argued at trial that no entry had occurred because Holt was “interrupted” by the homeowner and “never did get inside." The court, however, found Holt guilty of the fourth-degree felony and sentenced him to five years and six months in prison.  

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Feb. 25 affirmed the conviction of Holt, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

The state's highest court ruled that placing one’s fingers behind a window screen constitutes an intrusion.

Holt, who had appealed the conviction with the New Mexico Court of Appeals, argued that there was no "entry" based on New Mexico’s breaking-and-entering law, the paper reported. But the appeals court upheld the conviction in a divided opinion, and, in October 2015, the state's Supreme Court decided to review the case.

In their Feb. 25 ruling, the justices determined that the home begins at the window screen. 

“… (W)e determine that putting one’s finger behind a window screen affixed to a residential dwelling is an intrusion into an enclosed, private, prohibited space and constitutes an ‘entry’ for the purposes of New Mexico’s breaking-and-entering statute,” Justice Judith K. Nakamura wrote in the court’s opinion. “It is reasonable for the citizens of New Mexico to expect that their window screens afford them protection from unauthorized intrusions.”

A spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Corrections told Las Cruces Sun-News that Holt was released from prison in December 2014 and has already completed his parole. He's expected to finish his probation by June, according to the newspaper. 

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