Everyone has heard the classic line that “your home is your castle.” This means that your residence is considered sacred, and deserves protection from unwanted intrusion by others. One way Illinois recognizes this right is through its laws against burglary and criminal trespass to a residence. These are both types of unwanted home intrusion. But how are they different?
What is Criminal Trespass to a Residence?
In Illinois law, if you knowingly enter someone else’s home, or stay there without their permission, that is considered “criminal trespass.” The key to charging and proving this criminal offense is intent. For the trespass to be unlawful, the offender must have knowingly entered the property without the owner’s permission or stayed there after knowing that they were unwelcome there.
Accidentally wandering onto someone’s property is not criminal trespass—but intentionally ignoring no trespassing signs or a locked door may be. If the property is unoccupied at the time, this offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, or two years probation with formal supervision. If the home is occupied, it is considered a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison.
What is Residential Burglary?
In burglary, as in criminal trespass, intent makes all the difference. In this case, entering someone’s home with the intent to steal something is considered “residential burglary,” which can be charged as a Class 1 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Whether this unlawful entry will actually be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on factors such as whether it was committed with forcible entry, with attempted forcible entry, or without force at all.
Residential burglary also includes falsely claiming that you are a government representative or employee for a utility, construction, or telecommunications company in order to gain access to someone’s home for the purpose of committing a theft there.
In fact, in the state of Illinois, even the mere possession of tools that can be used to enter a home unlawfully—such as break-in instruments, lock-picks, keys, or explosives — is considered a burglary crime in itself. This is because having these tools in your possession implies your intent to commit a burglary. For the possession of burglary tools, the charge can be a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison or up to 30 months probation.
Contact a Knowledgeable Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a suspected burglary or criminal trespass, a conviction is not inevitable. An experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer knows how to create doubt about criminal intent and other important factors of the case. Reduced charges, probation, and even a complete acquittal are all possibilities. Call Hartsfield Law at 312-345-1700 today to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your case and find out how we can help.