We sometimes say that a person’s house is her “castle”. This idea goes a long way back: in 1604, an English court decision said that “the house of everyone is to him as his castle […] as well as for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose”.
Even today, Canada’s Criminal Code makes it a crime to intrude into someone else’s home.
Contrary to widespread belief, you don’t need to pick a lock or break a window to be accused of breaking and entering. Also, the protection given to homes extends to many other private places: stores, garages, sheds, trains, boats, enclosures, etc.
In this article, Éducaloi explains the main crimes related to homes: breaking and entering, and “being unlawfully in a dwelling house”.
What is breaking and entering?
This means to break something and enter into a place with the intention of committing a crime or entering to actually commit a crime. The mere fact that a person breaks and enters lets a judge conclude, even if there is no other evidence, that the person did so with the intent of committing a crime.
The term place not only includes a house, but also a building other than a house, a train, a boat, etc.
The term breaking also has a broad meaning. Breaking a window to enter is a type of breaking. Simply opening an unlocked door (or even using a key) is also a type of breaking. Just entering a place through an opening, without a legitimate reason, can be considered to be breaking and entering, even if the opening was not forced or broken.
Breaking also occurs if the person enters thanks to an accomplice who is inside, or by making threats or using tricks.
Finally, under the law, a person enters a place as soon as a part of his body or a part of one of his tools (for example, a tool used to pick a lock) is inside the place.
Here is an example: Marilyn and Joe broke up. Joe goes to the house of Marilyn’s new boyfriend to see his kids. Marilyn refuses to let him in, so Joe smashes the door, enters and threatens Marilyn. Joe is breaking and entering.
If the place in question is a home, the maximum punishment for breaking and entering is life imprisonment. For other places, a store, for example, it is 10 years in prison.
If the person accused of this crime knew that someone was in the house, didn’t care whether someone was there, or if there was violence or a threat of violence, the judge can consider this as an aggravating factor. An aggravating factor means that the judge can use this factor as a reason to give a harsher punishment.
What is “being unlawfully in a dwelling house”?
This means entering a home, or being in a home without a legitimate reason, with the intention of committing a crime there.
This crime is very similar to breaking and entering, but a person can be found guilty even if he did not enter by “breaking” into the house.
Here is an example: Kebir’s girlfriend tells him that Rami harassed her. Kebir goes over to Rami’s place to teach him a lesson. He knocks, and Rami opens the door. Kebir throws himself on Rami and punches and threatens him. When Kebir finally leaves, Rami calls the police.
The maximum sentence for this crime is 10 years in prison.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.