While most people know that you are likely to be charged with unlawful entry if you enter a house without the owner’s approval, what is less known is that it is also possible to be pressed with the same charges if you loiter in the stairs or other public spaces within an apartment complex, a legal decision has revealed.
The Banciao District Court recently handed down a final verdict which sentenced three defendants to between 30 and 50 days behind bars after they were convicted of unlawful entry.
The court said the three men — surnamed Chang (張), Wang (王) and Ho (何) — were charged with unlawful entry in December last year when they entered an apartment building looking for someone, but said they accidentally rang the wrong doorbell. By coincidence the resident was Chiu Yu-wen (邱昱聞), then a sergeant with New Taipei City’s Criminal Investigation Corps.
Chiu said that when he answered the door, he asked Chang what he wanted and Chang muttered something about “wanting to see a Mr Chen (陳) or Mr Lee (李).”
“I asked him how he had managed to get upstairs, as there is security on the ground floor, and then I noticed there were others in the stairway and felt, instinctively, that these people were up to no good,” Chiu said, adding he had asked the three to leave, given that they had entered the apartment building without reason.
Chiu said he was about to close the door when Chang blocked him while at the same time Wang and Ho had also come up to the landing to lend support to Chang, adding that when the three refused to leave — after he told them he was a policeman — he asked his mother to call the police.
Chiu said he had only pressed charges after the three men refused to leave, despite police at the scene requesting that they do so.
While the three men said in court that they had entered the apartment complex after being invited by one of the residents, no one at the apartment complex vouched for them.
The three men said they did not leave because Chiu had called the police and they felt they should wait until the police had arrived.
The judge presiding over the case said the definition of “residence” implied the location where one lived on a daily basis, adding that while the stairways of apartment complexes offered residents passage in and out, in general terms it still belonged to the building.
The definition of “unlawful entry” in the Criminal Code refers to the unsanctioned entry of a building or residence by the perpetrator, and as such the action had no exemption, the judge said.
The three defendants had not left the premises despite being asked to leave several times and, as such, their actions could be construed as having willingly entered the residence without invitation and their explanations were not valid, the judge said.
Another senior judge said that the unlawful entry of another’s residence was an offense which could result in legal action if charges are brought forth. He added that had the three defendants left upon being asked, Chiu would not have pressed charges.
Lawyer Lin Chun-feng (林俊峰) reminded the public that one should not willfully enter any premises which have visible, legal barriers — including walls and wooden or wire fences — set up around them or they run the risk of breaking the law.
It is also illegal, if one is invited to enter private property, to refuse to leave when asked, Lin said.