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A dwelling is a physical structure used for residential purpose. In the US, the legal definition of dwelling varies from state to state but most include language that defines characteristics for the purposes of habitation. In the UK, a dwelling is defined (in line with the 2001 Census definition) as a self-contained unit of accommodation.
Example specific US state definitions 
According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 160A-442, "Dwelling" means any building, structure, manufactured home or mobile home, or part thereof, used and occupied for human habitation or intended to be so used, and includes any outhouses and appurtenances belonging thereto or usually enjoyed therewith, except that it does not include any manufactured home or mobile home, which is used solely for a seasonal vacation purpose.
According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 53-244.030, "Dwelling" means a residential structure that contains one to four units, whether or not that structure is attached to real property. The term includes an individual condominium unit, cooperative unit, manufactured home, mobile home, or trailer if it is used as a residence.
Under the Oregon law, a "dwelling" is defined as a "building which regularly or intermittently is occupied by a person lodging therein at night, whether or not a person is actually present." United States v. Adams, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 25866 (9th Cir. Or. Nov. 25, 2009)
Example legal implications 
In California, Criminal Penal Code 246 which refers to shooting a firearm at an inhabited dwelling. This code specifies that a "dwelling" (more commonly referred to as a house) is "inhabited" if a person lives in it; it is irrelevant whether or not anyone is present. A house, building, or structure is not considered "inhabited" or "occupied" if the occupants have moved out or vacated and do not intend to return, even if personal property is/was left behind. Therefore, it would no longer be considered a dwelling for legal purposes, which from a defense standpoint, would negate a conviction under this code. For prosectors, it is advantageous to construe these terms loosely in order to secure as many convictions as possible for violation of this code. Examples of loose interpretation exist not only in California, but also in other states such as Colorado where similar code (Colorado Code § 18-1-901(3)(g)) applies in cases even when a shooting at an detached garage that does not traditionally constitute a dwelling or house. However, courts in both of these states and others have held that it does qualify as an occupied building for purposes of criminal conviction.
See also 
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