Criminal trespass Illinois lesson in the law taught to us from a case involving a defendant who was twice escorted out of a DMV by police. He won his case though. In podcast episode 016 of the Criminal Nuggets Podcast, I discuss what this case teaches us about the Illinois crime of criminal trespass to real property.
People v. Chai is the case under review here.
This case features a man who is at the DMV office to help out a friend get his driver’s license. We don’t know too much about the details about what happened this first time. We do know that DMV employees call the police. Defendant is escorted out by the cops and told to either go home or not to come back. We don’t know if his friend was issued a license that day.
Same guy is back at the same DMV several months later. This time he is there to help his wife, who has limited English skills, get her driver’s license. Defendant is there several hours walking her through the procedure. There are no problems at first. Everyone keeps their cool…
…until it is time for the driving test. I’m pretty sure Defendant is informed that he can’t be in the car with his wife during the test. Eventually, Defendant is informed that the test can’t go on anymore because his wife does not understand English so well.
This is when Defendant loses it. “It’s not fair,” becomes his loud refrain. You guessed it, police are called again. The facts at trial were debated, but we do know that Defendant is pushed out the building by an officer. The both of them fall to the ground outside the building and defendant ends up with a gash on his head.
Defendant was acquitted at trial for resisting and disorderly conduct but was found guilty of criminal trespass to real property.
The issue in the case was whether or not Defendant was given property notice that he was banned from the DMV for life after the first time he was escorted out by the cops.
Criminal Trespass Illinois
The crime of criminal trespass to real property in Illinois provides that:
“A person commits criminal trespass to real property when he or she…enters upon the land of another, after receiving, prior to the entry, notice from the owner or occupant that the entry is forbidden.”
Thus, there is a notice requirement that says the owner or occupant of the property must inform the charged individual that they are not welcomed on the property.
The appellate court noted that the property in question here was a public building. The second time, when Defendant was there with his wife, he was never asked to leave.
The State was arguing that the notice to stay out was given to the Defendant several months earlier when the police escorted him out when he was there helping his friend.
However, the appellate court thought that the calling of the police to remove a troublesome patron several months earlier did not imply a notice to that patron that he was never to return.
The property at issue is a public facility. The court noted that Defendant certainly couldn’t be the only person to commit the relatively innocent “offense” of losing his temper at a DMV. Thus, it is not natural or reasonable to infer that the DMV, by enlisting the help of the police months earlier, instructed the police to tell Defendant that he was forever banned from the facility.
A lifetime ban from a public facility has to be more definite and concrete than the circumstances in this case.
This conviction was overturned regardless of the jury’s finding of guilt. The court stepped in and struck a conviction that it felt was not justified by the law.
Hurry, for our court system. But please stay calm and quiet at your next visit to the DMV. We don’t want you to give us any law lessons.