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District of Columbia Unlawful Entry and Trespass Laws

It's illegal for individuals to enter someone else's property without permission. This is typically considered to be trespassing and can be penalized civilly or criminally. Often, this offense is charged as "criminal trespassing." However, not all jurisdictions use this term. For instance, "unlawful entry" is the term used in Washington, D.C. to describe an illegal entrance or unlawful lingering on the property of another.

If you're found in any private dwelling, building, or other property that is boarded-up, vacant, or otherwise secured in a way to convey vacancy or there are "No trespassing" signs, your presence alone is enough evidence to prove that you were trespassing in the District of Columbia. Thus, you can be charged with unlawful entry.

District of Columbia Unlawful Entry/Trespass Laws Summary

Due to the complexity of statutory language, it's helpful to refer to a plain language guide to statutes when it's time to unpack the law. The chart below provides an easy-to-follow explanation of the District of Columbia's theft laws.

Statutes

 

Elements of Unlawful Entry

 

Private Property Unlawful Entry

An individual (without legal authority) who enters, attempts to enter, or remains on private property (a private dwelling, building, or other property) against the will of the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge of the property can be charged with this misdemeanor offense.

"Private dwelling" includes a privately owned:

  • House;
  • Apartment;
  • Condominium; or
  • Any building used as living quarters, or cooperative or public housing as defined by HUD.

Public Property Unlawful Entry

An individual (without legal authority) who enters or attempts to enter any public building or other property against the will of the lawful occupant or of the person lawfully in charge of the property or remains on the property against the will of the owner or lawful occupant, can be charged with this misdemeanor.

Possible Penalties

If the property involved is private, then the offense is punishable for up to 180 days in jail and/or fines up to $1,000.

If the property involved is public, then the offense is punishable by 6 months in jail and/or fines up to $2,500.

Related Offenses

D.C. Code:

  • Section 22-1341 (unlawful entry of a motor vehicle)
  • Section 22-1321 (disorderly conduct)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Unlawful Entry and Trespass Laws: Additional Resources

Discuss Unlawful Entry and Trespass with an Experienced DC Attorney

Violating Washington, D.C.'s unlawful entry and trespass laws means dealing with a misdemeanor offense. However, these charges can still result in a conviction which can lead to some jail time. This is why you should consider discussing your case with an experienced criminal attorney who can mount a persuasive defense on your behalf.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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