Unlawful entry happens when a person enters the property of another without consent from the owner. Unlawful entry is not only a crime in its own way but an element of other crimes, in which it needs to be accomplished before those crimes can be charged.
- Crimes such as:
- Breaking and entering;
- Burglary; and
When a person enters another’s property unlawfully, we often think about it as someone sneaking around or the owner not knowing the entry is actually happening. However, this is not always the case.
Unlawful entry can also be achieved by using force against another, or by fraud. Fraudulent entry involves deception, or dishonesty, to gain admission. For example, suppose that Kristin gains entry into Steve’s home when she lies and says she is with the cable company. Once inside, Kristen takes whatever valuables she can without Steve knowing. Therefore, Kristen committed theft by way of unlawful entry.
Can a Homeowner Protect Against Unlawful Entry?
In most jurisdictions, a person can protect against unlawful entry onto their property when they believe it is reasonably necessary. Some jurisdictions, but not all, permit the use of deadly force by a homeowner to protect against unlawful entry. This is to say, deadly force may be used in self-defense when a homeowner believes there was no other way to protect themselves or their property.
Courts often find that deadly force is justified when homeowners reasonably believe the intruder has the intention of committing a felony while inside the home. Here, reasonable belief accompanies the reasonable person standard. Reasonable under this standard is what the average person would judge as acceptable. A felony is a more serious crime and typically involves violence. In the instance of unlawful entry, the possession of a weapon can indicate the intruder intended to commit a felony while in the home.
As an example, suppose that Eugene hears a noise one night, while he and his family are sleeping. For protection, he picks up a gun from his bedside table. When he walks into the kitchen and sees a man holding a knife, the man runs at him, and Eugene shoots. A court would most likely find this justified as self-defense.
Now consider the same facts. However, when Eugene walks into the kitchen, the man is unarmed and is frightened because he thought the home was empty. The man retreats through the open window. Eugene shoots the man, and he dies. This would not be justified, and Eugene would most likely face charges of his own.
What are the Consequences For Unlawful Entry?
Depending on the severity and facts surrounding the unlawful entry, legal consequences fall under either criminal or civil court jurisdictions. Consequences often depend on various factors. Was the entry forced? Did the intruder have a weapon? Chances are, that would be a criminal unlawful entry. Similarly, criminal charges can range from misdemeanors or felonies.
On the other hand, there might be a situation where police enter a home without a search warrant. This is often a suit of unlawful entry filed in civil court. However, there are other consequences in these circumstances, explained below.
Unlawful entry repercussions are very similar to those of trespass. It is typical that unlawful entry, or trespass, be categorized as a misdemeanor. However, the crimes are so broadly defined; this is not always the case. Depending on the crime’s circumstance, punishment can be fines, citations, and even jail time. Courts often look to the following to determine severity:
- Location of entry;
- The intent of entry;
- Whether a weapon or violence was involved; and
- The victims of the crime
Is It Unlawful Entry If Police Enter My House Without a Search Warrant?
As stated above, a civil suit can be brought when police enter a home, or other protected areas, without a valid warrant. Protected areas include anywhere a reasonable person would objectively expect privacy. That is to say, the individual and the general public both have the same expectation of privacy.
However, the unlawful entry of police can also have many consequences to a criminal trial. This includes the possibility of evidence collected during the unlawful search not being introduced during criminal trials. Or the possibility of charges against a suspect being dropped because they were arrested during an unlawful entry.
What if I Have Been Arrested For Unlawful Entry?
Regardless of if you are being criminally charged or charged in civil court, if you have been arrested for Unlawful Entry, you should call an attorney to advise you in your suit. A local criminal defense lawyer can assist you in a criminal charge. A local personal injury lawyer might better help you with a civil suit. Contacting an attorney can protect your rights and give you a better chance to succeed against suits.