Unlawful entry occurs when an individual enters private property without permission. Generally, it is a crime, and the person who enters without permission can be subject to both criminal and civil sanctions. The owner of a home or piece of property may also be permitted to use force to prevent unlawful entry from occurring, depending on the situation.
Within all developed countries, rights in property are recognized and enforced by the legal systems of the respective jurisdictions. This means when someone buys a given piece of property, he has the sole and exclusive right to its use and enjoyment and he may do anything he wishes with it, within the bounds of the law. No other person can enter that property without the permission of the legal owner.
If someone else tries to enter owned property without the express or implied permission of the legal owner, he is committing unlawful entry. This is considered, at a minimum, trespassing, which is a crime normally punishable by a fine. Often, a person who is committing unlawful entry also commits other crimes, such as breaking and entering, which occurs if the criminal forces his way in, or burglary, which occurs if the person entering unlawfully removes an item from the premises.
A homeowner generally has the right to protect his property from such unlawful entry. He can do so by posting no trespassing signs or by putting up fences or other barriers around his home. He may also be permitted to do so by forcefully preventing the person from entering or by forcing the person to leave.
Limitations are placed on the type of force a homeowner can use, however. For example, the homeowner can only use deadly force to prevent a person from entering his property if he believes that person means to do physical harm and if the use of deadly force is the last resort to protect the property. Otherwise, the homeowner is permitted to use non-deadly force only.
A person who engages in unlawful entry can also be subject to prosecution. Penalties for trespassing are normally limited to monetary fines, while burglary or other types of crimes can lead to jail time. If the person damaged something when he entered the property illegally, the person can also be sued in civil court for the damage that he caused and can be forced to pay monetary restitution to the owner of the property.