Many jurisdictions have separate home invasion laws. But in Texas, the burglary and criminal trespass laws apply to home invasions. The lack of a separate law forces prosecutors to shoehorn home invasions into a category where they do not naturally belong. As a result, these prosecutions have lots of moving parts, and that dimension gives Weatherford criminal defense attorneys an edge.
There are a number of procedural and substantive defenses to home invasion charges. Procedurally, officers may only have a vague description of a suspect during an investigation. This vague description usually does not pass the reasonable suspicion test under U.S. law. Substantively, a lack of evidence often hampers these prosecutions, particularly if the alleged victims does not fully cooperate, for whatever reason.
This law covers most home invasions in Texas. People are guilty of burglary if they:
Break into a building or habitation
With the intent to commit theft, assault, or any felony.
People break into premises if they use any force whatsoever. That could include jimmying a lock or breaking a window. Furthermore, the person need not completely enter the building. For example, if Ralph breaks into his estranged wife Julia’s home with the intent to assault her, but he gets scared and leaves, he is still guilty of burglary.
When applied to home invasions, the burglary statute has some holes. Many home invaders have the intent to commit a misdemeanor, such as the violation of a protective order. If Ralph breaks into Julia’s house to confront her even though she has a restraining order, Ralph is not guilty of burglary. He may, however, be guilty of another infraction, as outlined below.
Furthermore, if Ralph enters Julia’s house without permission (e.g. he uses a spare key to unlock the door), he is probably not guilty of burglary. But he may be in trouble for something else.
Burglary of a Vehicle
Home invaders sometimes target vehicles. If that happens, they may be charged with burglary of a vehicle. This offense has the same basic elements (breaking and entering with intent to commit certain crimes) as burglary of a building. But there are some differences.
The force requirement is different. In burglary of a vehicle cases, breaking the curtilage (area surrounding the property) may be sufficient. Let’s return to Ralph and Julia. If Ralph takes an item out of the bed of Julia’s pickup truck, he may be guilty of burglary of a vehicle.
Some vehicles, such as trailers and RVs, are dwellings instead of vehicles under Texas law. Furthermore, if the defendant has a criminal record, penalty enhancements may apply.
Essentially, criminal trespass is unlawful entry without using force and without the intent to commit a felony, assault, or theft. When Ralph broke into Julia’s house to confront her, he probably committed criminal trespass. That’s assuming he remained in her house and did not immediately flee.
This infraction is usually a Class B Misdemeanor. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the location was a private dwelling, battered womens’ shelter, or certain other places.
Home invasion prosecutions are quite complex in Parker County. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.