What is unlawful Entry in the District of Columbia?

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What is unlawful Entry in DC?

Charged with unlawful Entry in the District of Columbia

Unlawful Entry, codified at DC Code §22-3302, is a misdemeanor charge in Washington, D.C.  It is most similar to the criminal offense of “trespassing.”  Unlawful entry is committed by entering property against the will of “the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge thereof,” or refusing to leave the property when asked by that person.  If the property in question is private, the offense carries imprisonment for up to 180 days and/or a $1,000 fine.  If the property in question is public, the penalties are slightly higher – 6 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.  Most people charged with this offense in the District of Columbia are usually given a citation to appear in the District of Columbia Superior Court on a specific date.   If you are not a United States citizen it can have deportation consequence.    

What does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

The elements of unlawful entry are:

  1. the defendant entered onto private property,
  2. the physical act of entry [was] purposeful and voluntary—not accidental or mistaken
  3. the entry was unauthorized, i.e., without  lawful authority and against the will of [the] owner or lawful occupant
  4. the defendant knew or should have known that his entry was unwanted.  See In Ortberg v. United States, 81 A.3d 303 (D.C. 2013). 

Will I be required to go to Court and what is the process?

simple assault flow chart

If you are charged you will be required to appear in DC Superior Court.   Here is a flow chart of what you can expect to happen.  When you are charged you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.   Rollins and Chan attorneys have handled thousands of unlawful cases in the District of Columbia and we will fight for you. We will go to DC Superior Court and be at every hearing with you. We have over 22 years of criminal law experience. The United States Attorney’s for the District of Columbia prosecutes the cases. 

Whats the Maximum Penalty for Unlawful entry on Property in DC?

The maximum penalty for unlawful entry on private property is 180 days and/or $1000.00 dollars.  The maximum penalty for unlawful entry on public property is 6 months and/or $1000.00 dollars.  Why is there difference between public and private property?  Unlawful entry on public property entitles you to a jury trial.  

Will I go to Jail ?

An attorney can not guarantee whether you will go to jail; however, we can tell you based on our experience whether you are likely to go to jail.  Most first offenders for this offense do not go to jail.   In fact, the bigger issue is trying to avoid the criminal conviction.   

Could I get Diversion for unlawful entry in DC?

Most people charged with this offense in DC are eligible for diversion. Diversion is a way to
dismiss the case without a getting a conviction and having a criminal Record. You need to make
sure you discuss different diversion options with a unlawful entry criminal defense attorney because it can
still have deportation  even if you not convicted.

What is the law of unlawful entry in the District of Columbia?
  • Law in the District of Columbia Regarding Unlawful Entry (Public Dwelling)

Any person who, without lawful authority, shall enter, or attempt to enter, any public building, or other property, or part of such building, or other property, against the will of the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge thereof or his or her agent, or being therein or thereon, without lawful authority to remain therein or thereon shall refuse to quit the same on the demand of the lawful occupant, or of the person lawfully in charge thereof or his or her agent, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor….

  • Penalty for Unlawful Entry Public Places cases

If you refuse to leave or enter the will of the lawful occupant of a public building you may be entitled to a jury trial because the maximum exposure is 6 months and/or $1000.00 dollar fine.  These cases usually involve government buildings.  In other words, people protesting in a public area and then they are asked to leave and refuse.  The obvious difference between public and private unlawful entry cases is that public unlawful entry cases allow for a jury trial.  Public unlawful entry cases are usually resolved through diversion as well.

  • Law in the District of Columbia Regarding Unlawful Entry (Private Dwelling)

Any person who, without lawful authority, shall enter, or attempt to enter, any private dwelling, building, or other property, or part of such dwelling, building, or other property, against the will of the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge thereof, or being therein or thereon, without lawful authority to remain therein or thereon shall refuse to quit the same on the demand of the lawful occupant, or of the person lawfully in charge thereof, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor…

  • Penalty for Unlawful Entry Private Dwelling cases

If you refuse to leave or enter against the will of the lawful occupant you will be charged with Unlawful entry (Private dwelling).  You will not be entitled to a jury trial because the maximum exposure is 180 days and/or $1000.00 dollar fine.   Generally these are defended based on relevant notice given to the trespasser.   In other words,  did the person give adequate warnings that you were not allowed on the premises.     It is rare for cases like these to go to trial because the government typically offers diversion to resolve unlawful entry cases from private dwelling cases.

Is Unlawful Entry a Misdemeanor in the District of Columbia?

Yes Unlawful entry in the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor but the possible punishment is less one year.  

Will I Have a Criminal Record?

Yes if you are convicted of unlawful entry you will have a criminal record.  

Can you Expunge/Seal a Conviction?

Yes, if you are convicted of this charge in the District of Columbia you can seal the criminal record provided you wait the statutory time.

So What is a Typical Diversion Resolution

Many people charged with this offense try to avoid a trial and/or conviction by agreeing
to diversion options.

 Deferred Prosecution Agreement – 4 months – 32 hours of community service (Sample Agreement)

 Deferred Sentencing Agreement – 6 months – 48 hours of community service. (Sample Agreement)

Diversion is not automatically given. Your attorney will have to advocate with the prosecutor in order
to qualify for diversion options. If you are charged with Simple Assault in the District of Columbia
you should contact a Simple Assault Attorney immediately. While simple assault in the District of
Columbia is not the crime of the century, the collateral consequences can be dire.