Unlawful Entry

DC Unlawful Entry Lawyer

unlawful entry defense in DCIn the District of Columbia, there is no crime called “trespass” or “breaking and entering” like many jurisdictions.  The most similar crime is called “Unlawful Entry” or UE for short.  Someone can get arrested in DC for unlawful entry for a variety of reasons.  Unlawful entry is actually broader than trespass or breaking and entering.  For someone to be charged with unlawful entry, they just must have entered or attempted to enter a property without the lawful authority do so.

Someone can do this without breaking anything.  A bouncer could eject you from a bar or club for any reason and if you tried to or successfully reentered, you could be arrested for unlawful entry.  Any business owner can lawfully bar someone from their property.  Police, if acting with a business owner’s authority, can bar individuals from restaurants or convenient stores.  If they provide you with adequate notice that you are barred, and you reenter or even try to reenter, the police could arrest you for unlawful entry.

Unlawful entry is different form a burglary, however.  While unlawful entry is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days and/or a $1,000.00 fine, burglary is a felony offense.  The main difference between unlawful entry and a felony burglary is that the law requires someone enter a premise unlawfully with an intent to commit a crime.  If you are just entering because you were kicked out and thought it was unfair, that is generally not an unlawful entry or trespass.  If you reenter the bar you got kicked out of with the intent to steal from the register, then that rises to the level of burglary.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia prosecutes unlawful entry misdemeanors in DC.  In some cases, they will offer diversion.  One type of diversion sometimes available in an unlawful entry case is something called a “Stet Docket”.  In a “stet docket,” the government will just basically have you sign a contract stating you will not return to the place you were arrested for unlawful entry at for a period of 6 months to a year.  If you return to court after that period and there is no allegation that you returned, the government will dismiss the case.

In some instances, the government may offer a Deferred Prosecution Agreement or Deferred Sentencing Agreement in an unlawful entry case.  These are further examples of diversion where the government will generally dismiss a case in exchange for community service and the person staying away from the property the police arrested them at for a period of time.  Its important to talk to an experienced DC unlawful entry lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal justice system.

There are also defenses to unlawful entry in DC.  The two main defenses are lack of notice and lack of authority.  If the government cannot prove you knew you were not permitted at a particular place, they cannot convict you for unlawful entry.  Along the same lines, the government must prove the person who barred you from a particular place had the lawful authority to do so.  If they cannot prove either of those elements, they cannot convict you for unlawful entry.

There is another context where unlawful entry can come up.  There are provisions under the DC Code that prohibit the unlawful entry of public spaces.  That could include somewhere like a Metro Station or a public museum.  This may come up where individuals attempt to protest in public space and the Metro Transit Police or Park Police might bar someone from the property.  The individual or individuals could return attempting to protest further and be arrested for entering or attempting to enter the public space.

At Scrofano Law PC, we have handled dozens of unlawful entry cases and gotten successful results for our clients.  If you or someone you know has had the unfortunate experience of being arrested for unlawful entry, contact Scrofano Law PC today for a full case evaluation.  We can explain to you what to expect every step of the process.  Navigating the criminal justice system is difficult.  Finding the right criminal defense attorney should not be.