In French law, the rule is clear: it is forbidden to enter your neighbor's home or any other person without having been invited beforehand. Entering the home of a third party when not authorized to do so is a criminal offence, well known as home invasion. What do you risk if you enter someone's home without their permission? When is the offence actually characterized? What can the victim do to claim compensation for his or her injury? Our answers.
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When it comes to home invasion, the rule is the same for all individuals. You cannot enter someone's home without permission. On the other hand, exceptions exist for certain persons holding public authority.
What does it mean to enter someone's home without permission?
In a very simple way, entering someone's home without permission means that you enter their home without having been invited.
Does the law punish this type of behavior?
Yes, French law provides for two separate offences that punish entering someone's home without authorization:
- For individuals, this is the crime of home invasion. It is provided for and punished by article 226-4 of the Criminal Code.
- For persons holding public authority (civil servants), this is the offence of undermining the inviolability of the home. It is provided for and punished by article 432-8 of the Criminal Code.
By protecting the home, French law strengthens the European protection of privacy and private property. In particular, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
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When is the offence of trespassing?
The law punishes the conscious entry of any individual into someone's home without permission. More specifically, it aims to:
- Entering someone's home. The law speaks of the domicile of others. It clarifies its definition. A person's home is a dwelling that contains the person's movable property. It does not matter whether she lives there or not, or whether the facts occurred in her principal residence or in her secondary residence. The decisive criterion is therefore that the place is furnished and that it contains personal belongings. Thus:
- The hotel room is considered the home of others.
- The holiday home is considered to be someone else's home.
- The car is not considered as the home of others because it is not a place intended to live there.
- Without having obtained prior authorization: the person who enters the premises must not legitimately have access to it.
- By using one of the following means:
- Maneuvers. For example, climbing a wall or breaking the front door.
- Threats. They can be verbal or physical.
- Assault. It's violence.
- Constraint. It is the act of depriving an individual of his freedom of action.
Note: For the offence to be constituted and punishable by law, all of the above conditions must be met.
Good to know
The Criminal Code excludes from the scope of punishment an individual who acts in cases provided for by law. In fact, they are very rare. This is for example the case of the maid who enters the hotel room to do the cleaning.
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When is the violation of the inviolability of the home constituted?
Several cumulative legal criteria must be met for the offence of undermining the inviolability of the home to be considered as such:
- The perpetrator is a person holding public authority or entrusted with a public service mission. For example, a notary, a commissioner of justice (ex-bailiff), a magistrate, a policeman...
- The perpetrator must act in the exercise or in connection with the exercise of his functions or mission. On the other hand, a civil servant who does not act in the course of his work must be punished like individuals on the basis of the home invasion.
- The perpetrator acts outside the cases provided for by law. Indeed, certain very specific circumstances allow public servants to enter a person's home without his authorization. Like what:
- The bailiff who has an enforceable title.
- The police officer who has a warrant to bring, search or arrest. But also a search warrant.
- The police in the context of an investigation of flagrance.
Unlike home invasion, no intrusion process is required here. The mere status of public official is sufficient.
Good to know
If the conditions of article 432-8 of the Criminal Code set out above are not met, the perpetrator falls within the scope of the violation of the homes of individuals of article 226-4 of the Criminal Code.
Note: firefighters are authorized to enter a person's home, without their authorization, when there is an imminent danger. For example, fire or a gas leak.
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Who has the right to enter someone's home without permission?
The principle is that no one can pass through a door without being authorized to do so.
But there are cases where home invasion is legitimized:
- Firefighters if the emergency warrants it.
- Public persons, after being authorized by law (police or gendarmerie with a mandate, commissioner of justice with an enforceable title, etc.).
- In rarer cases, individuals. It is on a case-by-case basis that it will be necessary to determine whether the culpable intention to enter without authorization was real or not.
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What are the penalties for entering another person's home without his authorization?
When the offence is committed by an individual, the latter is liable:
- 1 year's imprisonment.
- €15,000 fine.
Good to know
Attempt is punishable by the same penalties (article 226-5 of the Criminal Code).
When the offence is committed by a public person, the latter is liable:
- 2 years' imprisonment.
- €30,000 fine.
Additional penalties may be imposed (Article 432-17 of the Criminal Code):
- The prohibition of civil, civil and family rights.
- Prohibition from holding a public office or exercising a professional or social activity in the exercise or in connection with the exercise of which the offence was committed.
- The confiscation of sums or objects unlawfully received by the perpetrator, with the exception of objects liable to restitution.
Note: for public figures, the penalties are doubled.
Good to know
In addition to the penalties provided for in the Criminal Code, the victim of a home invasion always has the possibility to claim damages as compensation for the damage he has suffered.
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How to file a complaint for trespassing?
The victim has two ways:
- File a complaintfor home invasion in a police station or gendarmerie. It can be filled out directly at law enforcement premises, or pre-filled online when property is damaged. For example, theft or damage.
- File a complaint with the public prosecutor. It is then necessary to send him a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt. Or file your complaint directly at the reception of the court.
The limitation period for filing a complaint following a home invasion is 6 years. After this period, the action is time-barred (article 8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
Good to know
Home invasion can be proven by means of attestations.
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Which court has jurisdiction over home invasion?
Home invasion is a misdemeanor.
The criminal court of the place of the violation or that of the place of residence of the offender has jurisdiction.
Can a landlord freely enter his rented accommodation?
The tenant has exclusive enjoyment of the rented accommodation.
Therefore, he must live there freely. The landlord therefore does not have the right to enter the apartment or house, without having been invited by the tenant.
If the landlord still enters the dwelling, the tenant can file a complaint for home invasion.
- The tenant must allow access to his accommodation for the preparation and realization of the work at the expense of the owner.
- The owner can show the accommodation if he puts it up for sale or if he re-rents it.
But in these two cases, the tenant must always give prior authorization for access.