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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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The Different Charges for Entering an Illinois Residence Illegally

In Illinois, a person’s home and property are protected by the law from the unwanted intrusion of other people. That’s why there are separate laws in Illinois for criminal trespass and residential burglary.

If you’re unsure of the difference between these crimes, you’re not alone. Many people don’t understand what each crime is or what penalties they can each bring upon someone convicted of them.

So here’s what you need to know about criminal trespass and residential burglary, how they’re different, and what kind of penalties are associated with each.

What is Criminal Trespass?

Criminal trespass is defined as entering or staying on another person’s property without their authorization and it’s considered a criminal offense. That said, the key to charging someone with criminal trespass and proving it in court is intent.

In order for the trespass to be considered unlawful, the accused must:

  • Have knowingly entered the property without permission from the owner
  • Have remained on the property after understanding they were no longer welcome on it
  • Have been directed by the property owner to stay off the property but ignored it, such as a posted sign, locked building, or fence securing the property

If you wander accidentally onto another person’s property, it won’t be considered criminal trespass because of your intent. However, ignoring signs that declare “no trespassing” as you walk onto someone’s property can be seen as criminal trespass.

In many cases, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor crime.

Residential Burglary

Residential burglary is defined as committing burglary upon the dwelling or residence of another person. As with criminal trespass, the established intent of the defendant matters.

If someone breaks into another person’s home for the purpose of stealing something, then that is considered residential burglary. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether the burglary was done with unlawful entry without force, forcible entry, or attempted forcible entry.

Burglary Tools

In Illinois, it’s also considered a burglary crime to possess tools that can be used to gain unlawful entry into another person’s home. This includes tools such as:

  • Explosives
  • Instruments used for break-ins
  • Key
  • Tools such as those to pick a lock

If a person is caught with any tools that can assist with burglary, then it can be inferred that they intended the tools to be used to help in the commission of the crime.

Sentencing for Burglary Crime Convictions in Illinois

Beyond basic trespassing, every burglary crime is classified as a felony. Penalties range from a few months to more than a decade behind bars and fines equalling thousands of dollars.

Residential Burglary

Residential burglary can be charged as a Class 1 felony. That makes it punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Criminal Trespass

This is considered a Class 4 felony in Illinois if the residence is occupied, punishable by up to three years in prison.

If the property is not occupied, then criminal trespass can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison or two years of probation with formal supervision.

Burglary Tools

If found in possession of burglary tools, then a person can be charged with a Class 4 felony. This is punishable by up to three years in prison or up to 30 months on probation.

Chicago Burglary Lawyer

A key factor in prosecutors securing a conviction for entering an Illinois residence illegally is intent. Every single trespassing and burglary crime must have this element present in order to convict. What does this mean for you?

The right Chicago criminal defense attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine where questions may lie when it comes to your intentions during the alleged commission of the burglary crime.


About the Author:

Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.



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