Burglary Highlights Quirky Cold Weather Law Exemption

Posted at: 03/10/2014 5:51 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

Forest Loucks
Forest Loucks
Photo: Olmsted County Adult Detention Center

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- An attempted break in over the weekend has us looking into a quirky but important Minnesota law. The man told authorities he was breaking in to a home in order to warm up. Something that in Minnesota, police say can be a legitimate excuse.

"If wouldn't have got here sooner, he would of broke the other one,” said Franklin Mathews of Oronoco.

Franklin Mathews woke up to pounding on his front door early Saturday morning. “I heard an awful racket,” said Mathews. But it wasn't a friendly visitor on his stoop. "I got up and I says what the hell are you doing? He says I want money,” he said.

Olmsted County Sheriff officials say 21-year-old Forest Loucks was three times over the legal drinking limit when he tried breaking into Franklin's house. By using the spigot, Loucks shattered the first layer of glass on the front door. Franklin called his son who lives close by, who held Loucks by gun point until authorities arrived.

“In one of the statements that he made, he indicated he was just trying to get warm,” said Sgt. Tom Claymon, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Department.

Which had officials thinking about the state's burglary statute. There's an exemption that says a person can break in to someone's property to keep from freezing to death, as long as there is no criminal intent.

"In a situation where someone's life is dependent upon seeking shelter or finding refuge, certainly there's no amount of property that could compare against a human life,” said Claymon.

Sgt. Tom Claymon says in his 20 years of work, he's only seen the exemption used once. But he says, with survival a top priority, it's still a legitimate loop hole. “We are in a climate where the weather can change so quickly,” said Claymon.

The exemption looks at number of factors, based on common sense. The main one being what the person is wearing compared to the outside temperature? In this case, Sgt. Claymon says Loucks had contradicting statements.

For, Franklin Mathews, this weekend's break in just doesn't fit that criteria. "I got a heart, that you wouldn't want to see him freeze to death, but right away I knew he wasn't cold because he had a heavy jacket on,” said Mathews.

The suspect in this weekend's incident told police he was kicked out of a car. However police believe he was not in danger of freezing to death. Loucks has not been charged, but could face charges of felony burglary.