A conviction for home invasion has serious consequences, including the possibility of a life prison sentence.Elements of Home Invasion
In order to convict a defendant of home invasion, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant entered someone else’s dwelling house;
- The defendant knew or should have known that at least one person was inside or, alternatively, the defendant stayed inside when he or she knew or should have known that at least one person was present;
- The defendant had armed himself or herself with a dangerous weapon at the time of entry into the dwelling house; and
- The defendant either used force or threatened to use imminent force on at least one person who was inside the dwelling house or, alternatively, the defendant intentionally injured a person who was inside.
A dangerous weapon is any item that is capable of causing serious injury or death. An item that is normally used for innocent purposes can become a dangerous weapon if it is intentionally used as a weapon in a dangerous or potentially dangerous fashion. For example, a lit cigarette can be a dangerous weapon if used to burn someone and a sharpened pencil can be a dangerous weapon if thrown at someone’s eyes.
A dwelling house is any place that people live. Dwelling houses include single family homes, apartments, duplexes, hotels, dormitories, and tenement buildings.Common Defense Strategies
Home invasion cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Identification - In the event that the alleged victim does not know the defendant, there will likely be an identification issue. A home invasion is obviously a stressful and hectic incident. It makes sense that an alleged victim might misidentify the defendant. Attorney Spring aggressively cross-examines all eyewitnesses in these types of cases.
- Defendant’s Knowledge - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew or should have known about the presence of people inside the home. Proving that a defendant simply broke into a home with the intent to commit a crime is insufficient to sustain a conviction for home invasion.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible if the defendant is asserting self-defense. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
- Bias - In most home invasion cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the incident or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert his or her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.
Given the serious consequences that result from a home invasion conviction, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Chris Spring has the necessary experience to aggressively defend your case.