What You Need to Know About DC Unlawful Entry Lawyer

Have you been charged with unlawful entry? Seek legal representation from Scrofano Law. Our lawyers can help you. Call us now.

What Is Unlawful Entry DC?


Under DC law § 22-3302, unlawful entry is a misdemeanor crime in Washington, DC. It is the most similar to the criminal offense of “trespassing.” Someone can get arrested in DC for unlawful entry for various reasons. Although similar, unlawful entry is a different crime than breaking and entering.

For someone to be charged with unlawful entry, they must have entered or attempted to enter a building or other property without the lawful authority to do so or against the will of the lawful occupant of the private dwelling. An individual can also face an unlawful entry charge if they have entered the private property legally, without breaking and entering, but refused to leave when asked by the person who is the lawful occupant of that property.

A bouncer could eject you from a bar or club for any reason, and if you tried to or successfully reentered without lawful authority, you could be arrested for unlawful entry.

Any business owner can lawfully bar someone from their property. Police, acting with a business owner’s authority, can block individuals from restaurants or convenience stores. If they give you adequate notice that you are barred and reenter or even try to reenter, the police could arrest you for unlawful entry.

A criminal conviction for an unlawful entry in the District of Columbia can result in a criminal record, which can cause problems for years to come. Therefore, unlawful entry charges shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are charged with unlawful entry on property, a Washington, DC trespassing lawyer at Scrofano Law PC could assist in reducing the negative consequences and achieving the most favorable outcome.

Differences Between Unlawful Entry and Burglary


Unlawful entry is different from burglary, however. While illegal entry is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000.00 fine, burglary is a felony offense.

The main difference between unlawful entry and felony burglary is that the law requires someone to enter premises unlawfully with the intent to commit a crime.

If you are entering because you were kicked out and thought it was unfair, that is generally not an unlawful entry or criminal trespassing. 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.

If you have been arrested or are facing charges for unlawful entry in DC, it’s important to consult with an experienced DC burglary lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can review the facts of your criminal offense, help you understand the charges against you, and develop a defense strategy that is tailored to your specific situation.

What Are the Consequences of Unlawful Entry?


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 a “Stet Docket.”

In a “stet docket,” the government will have you sign a contract stating you will not return to the private property you were arrested for unlawful entry for six 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.

It’s important to talk to an experienced Washington DC trespassing lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal justice system.

Defenses to Unlawful Entry Charges in DC


There are several defenses to unlawful entry in DC. The two primary 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. They cannot convict you for unlawful entry if they cannot prove either of those elements.

There is another context where unlawful entry can come up. Provisions under the DC Code prohibit illegal entry into public spaces. That could include somewhere like a Metro Station or a public museum.

This may come up when 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 trying to protest further and be arrested for entering or attempting to enter the public space.

Contact a Washington DC Unlawful Entry Attorney for Help


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 our Washington DC trespassing attorney today for an attorney-client relationship. We can explain what to expect at every step of the process. Navigating the criminal justice system is complex. Finding the right criminal defense attorney should not be.


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