Criminal trespass to real property charges result from a bad day at the DMV. However, after this conviction significant legal questions remain. What is a proper notice that you are not welcome at the, otherwise public, DMV?
People v. Chai, 2014 IL App (2nd) 121234 (08/19/2014).
Was there sufficient notice to Defendant that he was not welcome at the DMV, such that his conviction for criminal trespass to property can be sustained?
Defendant had two unpleasant experiences in the DMV. The first was in September of 2011. Defendant went to help a friend obtain a driver’s license. A disagreement ensued, defendant got angry at employees, and police were called. Eventually, Defendant is escorted out the building and told, by police, not to return.
A few months later, Defendant returned with his wife. She wanted a driver’s license. She had been a United States citizen for less than one year, her English was weak, and she needed help navigating the system. After some time, and attempts Defendant is informed that his wife could not take the road test because she did not sufficiently understand English.
Defendant became irate and hostile. He began screaming, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!” Police are called again. This time they arrest him. Defendant was pushed out the building. He fell and ended up with a gash on his head.
Defendant believed that he should be able to enter the DMV,because he is a United States citizen entitled to certain services.
Illinois Complied Statutes Criminal Code section 720 ILCS 5/21-3(a)(2) , criminal trespass to real property, states 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.”
Although the language of the statute does not expressly set forth a mental-state requirement, case law has established that the “knowingly” mental state applies to all elements of the offense. See People v. Ulatowski, 54 Ill. App. 3d 893, 896-98 (1977).
The statute requires that an owner or occupant provide the defendant with notice.
Here, according to the State’s theory of the case, the police provided the notice.
If the court accepts the police notice then the State needed to establish a link between an owner or occupant of the DMV and the police. The State provided no evidence that an owner or occupant authorized or requested the police to provide Defendant with notice that he was never to return.
The court declined to extend existing case law to allow for notice to be given by a police officer rather than an owner or occupant under the circumstances of this case. In the case law, the owner or occupant requested that the police to provide the defendant with notice to leave the property.
There may be an inference that, if the owner or occupant called the police, the owner or occupant implicitly requested the police to provide the defendant with notice to depart. It is always “prudent to summon police and have them remove belligerent patrons rather than attempt to remove them personally.” Gudgel, 183 Ill. App. 3d at 884.
However, in the instant case, owner's summoning police to remove a troublesome patron did not imply a request to tell that patron that he was never to return. The property at issue is a public facility. 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 owner or occupant, by enlisting the help of the police, instructed the police to tell Defendant that he was forever banned from the facility.
We cannot allow the jury to have made such an inference absent any evidence.
To be convicted of criminal trespass to real property, the owner or occupant must, at a minimum, request the police to give the notice on his or her behalf. the State entirely failed to prove an element of the offense, namely, that Defendant received notice from an owner or occupant that entry was forbidden.
Even in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence does not support a guilty verdict. Accordingly, the court reversed Defendant’s conviction of criminal trespass to real property.