Let’s Say You Have an Emergency: Can You Legally Trespass on Someone’s Property?

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on April 1, 2014

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This may be a no-brainer for many – but trespassing is illegal. However, there are some interesting exceptions to this standard statutory real estate law, one in particular, to be honest. It’s an understandable one. We don’t normally think about the prospect, and it involves a great deal of common sense in the matter. The fact remains: if your life is threatened somehow, or the wellbeing of your family is threatened somehow, then emergencyundoubtedly, provided you don’t overstep certain boundaries (which we’ll get to here in a little bit), you can actually trespass on someone else’s property.

How so? Emergencies are a pretty standard defense. A preponderance of evidence, though, has to be shown, proving that there was an emergency before you could simply walk into someone’s backyard and claim any right to be there. After all, any homeowner may have the right to pull a weapon on your for trespassing – you better show reasonable cause for risking that.

There are two parts to this law involving emergencies while trespassing – there’s the concept of “public necessity” and also “private necessity.” Public necessity is about an emergency affecting a whole society or community. Think of what might happen if there was a large-scale spreading fire in your neighborhood. A whole row of homes end up bursting into flames, and you definitely have the right to practically invite yourself – and anyone else with you – into someone’s home, which is safe from any flames, without repercussion. In fact, the homeowner of said house might actually see it as common sense. Private necessity, though, simply involves your own person, personal protection even. Maybe a dangerous animal’s chasing you down, and you need to escape somehow. It could be an assailant of some kind going after you with a knife or gun. For the sake of preservation of life, a homeowner of a house you’re trying to “break into” may not like it, but without a doubt it makes perfect sense to try and hide from someone who wants to kill you. You wouldn’t be held liable for basically “trespassing on someone else’s property.”

Before you see any reason to just walk into someone’s house, know this, though – there are statutory guidelines here, such as the fact that you can “trespass” as long as the “emergency continues.” Therefore, if the fire is quenched or the assailant leaves or is arrested, better leave the house, or the homeowner may legally file a complaint. Additionally, regardless of why you trespassed, you may still be liable for any damages on property, such as a broken door, windows or anything else. I would say this, though – that’s a small price to pay for preserving your life! Let’s just hope we never get into those situations, though….

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