The Court of Appeals in Foster v. U.S., decided on November 7, 2019, reversed and vacated the defendant’s conviction for unlawful entry.

Foster who was according to his rental lease part of a housing complex consisting of two distinct units — Hopkins I&II was barred by a security guard from the Hopkins I complex for violating the housing rules and two days thereafter was arrested for an unlawful entry into the complex.

Foster argued on appeal that the trial record showed insufficient evidence that Hopkins Apartments consisted of more than one legally distinct DCHA property, especially when considering the lease that was admitted into evidence during his mother’s testimony.  Specifically, the residents of Hopkins Apartments had authority to be on the entire property and thus the barring notice was illegally issued and invalid.

The government argued that each complex was a legally distinct unit and the barring notice valid as only limited Foster from entering the complex that he did not reside in.

In order to establish the elements of unlawful entry under § 22-3302, the government must establish an entry that is unauthorized, specifically:

  • 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.

The government had the burden to establish that:

  1. The barring notice was valid.
  2. Foster violated the barring notice by unlawful entry.

The Court of Appeals however held that the barring notice was not valid as the specific lease provision provided and defined the leased premises as including the Lessee’s Unit as indicated in the lease as well as the other buildings or areas for the exclusive use of the Lessee which was the entire development.  Development included the common areas of the buildings and grounds associated with all the buildings in the Development.

Therefore, collectively the lease provision prohibited issuance of a barring notice for a resident of the entire development and the lease made no distinctions between Hopkins I or II – the barring notice was held to be invalid and thus the conviction based on the barring notice violation must also be overturned.

Refer to our Washington DC Criminal Lawyer page for more detailed information on this topic and other criminal subject matters.

Categories: Criminal Defense.