July 11, 2011 … House Bill 790 was introduced in the Maryland State Legislature on February 10, 2011. Titled the “Criminal Law — Home Invasion Violent Crime” bill, the purpose of the legislation (currently under consideration by the Maryland State Judiciary Committee) is to prohibit a person from breaking and entering the dwelling of another and committing a violent crime against. The proposed Maryland bill also establishes criminal penalties and authorizes a sentence imposed under the Act to be separate from and consecutive to a sentence for any other crime that arises from the conduct underlying the home invasion violent crime.
Maryland is not the only state moving to join five other states and one city that already have identified “home invasion” as a separate and specific crime.
State Legislation Addressing Home Invasion Increases
On January 11, 2011, S. 148 was introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the Code of Laws of South Carolina so as to enact the “Home Invasion Protection Act” to establish the offense of home invasion and provide a penalty.
A report in the New York Times notes that South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon had declared “open season” on home invaders. Even the S.C. State Supreme Court got involved in May, 2011, joining Texas, Oklahoma, and a few other states in ruling that deadly force in home invasion is acceptable under South Carolina Law.
Concern and public outrage related to serious home invasion crimes are prompting additional state legislation related to home invasions. For example, on March 15, 2011, a bill making home invasion deaths a capital crime passed the New Hampshire House without debate. Details on the crime that prompted the change in New Hampshire’s death penalty law, described here, involved a brutal home invasion machete and knife attack on a mother and daughter.
So, while it’s true that “home invasion” is not, as yet, defined as a separate crime in most states, over the last few years, several states have already moved to designate home invasion a separate crime, including Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, and even Las Vegas, Nevada (see details below).
Some Background on How Home Invasion Is Prosecuted
In February 2008, Kevin McCarthy submitted a research report related to how various states address the crime of home invasion. In his report for the Office of Legislative Research for the State of Connecticut, McCarthy summarized the laws of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Here are some additional reference points from the statues of states that have passed home invasion laws.
Michigan was the first state to enact a home invasion statue. Here, Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys offer a breakdown of the various aspects of the Michigan Home Invasion Law. Section 750.110a of the Michigan Penal Code, enacted on October 1, 1994 and amended on October 1, 1999, defines home invasion and outlines first degree, second degree, and third degree penalties.
Louisiana passed a statute in 2009 that defines home invasion as the unauthorized entering of any inhabited dwelling, or other structure belonging to another and used in whole or in part as a home or place of abode by a person, where a person is present, with the intent to use force or violence upon the person of another or to vandalize, deface, or damage the property of another.
Since Kevin McCarthy submitted his report (see above), the Connecticut General Assembly adopted a new home invasion law. Connecticut’s law was enacted a year after a deadly break-in in Cheshire, Connecticut, left a 48-year old mother and her two daughters, 17 and 11, murdered during a home invasion. The law made home invasion a class A feolny punishable to 10 to 25 years in prison, with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence..
For a full history of the events leading up to passage of the Connecticut Home Invasion Law, read the following timeline entry from the Hartford Courant.
When enacted in 2008, Connecticut, Governor M. Rodi Rell said, “Violent criminals have no place in our state – except inside a prison cell … A tough home invasion law is the linchpin of our real reform. Our reforms will make our state safer – with new laws and tougher penalties that will get criminals off the streets and behind bars.”
Illinois is another of the five states with home invasion statutes. In Illinois, a home invasion has taken place when a person enters the home of another person, commits a crime, and the person knows or has reason to suspect that the home is occupied at the time. If a weapon is used during the course of a home invasion, the consequences are most severe if convicted.
Florida Statute 812.135 defines “home-invasion robbery” and outlines the various attributes of the crime and related punishments.
In states without home invasion laws, the crime generally is prosecuted as a form of burglary. See additional details below.
California addresses “home invasion robbery” under its burglary statute:
In Texas, home invasion is generally prosecuted under statues related to unauthorized and forceful entry into a dwelling.
According to this Colorado law firm’s website, home invasion is a crime that is taken very seriously by law enforcement officials and the courts in the state of Colorado. Colorado home invasion charges usually command a much more serious mandatory series of penalties due to the fact there there is an element of violence to the crime. Moreover, in the state of Colorado, Section 18-1-704 of the Colorado statute (also called the “Make My Day” ruling) says a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person when he reasonably believes to be the use of imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person.
Various chapters of the criminal Code of Title LXII of the New Hampshire statute relate to the crime of home invasion, making it punishable under a variety of separate Sections. For example, Section 631:4 deals with criminal threat in assault and related offenses, or Section 636:1 deals with robbery.
Rhode Island deals with home invasion under various sections of its Title 11, Criminal Offenses code. For example, Chapter 11-8 deals with burglary and breaking and entering under a variety of sub-sections for: breaking and entering; breaking and entering while resident on premises; breaking and entering when an elderly resident is on premises; breaking and entering of a dwelling when an imparied resident is on premises.
The legal definition of “invasion of the home” in Las Vegas, Nevada, makes it a crime for someone to “forcibly enter an inhabited dwelling without permission of the owner (or lawful occupant), whether or not a person is present at the time of the entry.” Note that the Nevada offense of home invasion applies only to “inhabited dwellings” and not to places of business or abandoned properties. Specifically, an inhabited dwelling may be any structure, building, house, room, apartment, tenement, tent, conveyance, vessel, boat, vehicle, house trailer, travel trailer, motor home or railroad car in which the owner or other lawful occupant resides.
Massachusetts does not have a crime again home invasion, per se. However, Section 14 of Title I, Chapter 266, “crimes against property,” deals with “burglary, armed assault on occupants; weapons, punishment.
The profusion of state and local laws relating to the crime of “home invasion” — a term increasingly used by the media, but a term lacking single, clear definition — have prompted some to consider making home invasion a federal crime.