Unlawful entry, considered as an aggravating circumstance in criminal law, serves as a stern reminder of the importance of property rights and the sanctity of personal space. Enshrined within the provisions of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, this offense signifies a breach of trust, an invasion of privacy, and a violation of the very fabric that holds our society together. What is unlawful entry in criminal law?
As humans, we inherently seek solace and security within the confines of our homes and establishments, and unlawful entry disrupts this fundamental need. It is imperative that we recognize the gravity of this act as a means to facilitate the commission of a penal offense, for it not only threatens the physical safety of individuals but also undermines the basic principles of justice and order.
What is Unlawful Entry in Criminal Law?
As an aggravating circumstance, unlawful entry refers to the act of entering a dwelling, building, or premises without the consent of the owner or lawful occupant. It is aggravating circumstance when it is committed as a means to facilitate the commission of a crime, unless the same is inherent in the perpetration thereof or which can qualify a crime when utilize for its accomplishment.
Any circumstance attending the commission of a crime or tort which increases its guilt or enormity or adds to its injurious consequences, but which is above and beyond the essential constituents of the crime or tort itself. Matter of aggravation, correctly understood, does not consist in acts of the same kind and description as those constituting the gist of the action, but in something done by the defendant, on the occasion of committing the trespass, which is, to some extent, of a different legal character from the principal act complained of.1
If present during the commission of the crime, aggravating circumstances help to increase the sentence without exceeding the maximum time of the penalty imposed by law for the offense.
Aggravating Circumstances are based on the greater perversity of the offender because of:
- The motivating power itself2
- The place of commission3
- The time of the commission4
- The personal circumstance of the offender5
- The means and ways employed6
Let us now discuss the means and ways employed to commit the crime, which includes unlawful entry.
Article 14, par. 18 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
Aggravating circumstances. — The following are aggravating circumstances:7
Paragraph 18 That the crime committed after an unlawful entry.8
Under this paragraph, it is worth noting there is unlawful entry when an entrance by the perpetrator is effected through a way not intended for the purpose. The act of creeping through the window, as a means to enter the house, constitutes unlawful entry. The unauthorized entry must have been made with the intention of carrying out a criminal act, such as rape or murder.
However, if the purpose is to take valuables from the house without the occupant’s or owner’s consent, then the unlawful entry is not considered an aggravating circumstance but rather an element of the offense in the crime of robbery with force upon things under Article 299 of the Revised Penal Code.
To effect entrance, not for escape
Unlawful entry must be used to gain access, not to flee. The reason for this is that those who act without respecting the walls constructed by men to protect their property and provide for their personal safety demonstrate greater perversity and daring, and thus the law punishes him more severely.
In the case of People vs. Sunga,9 the Supreme Court ruled that:
The act of entering through the window, which is not the proper entrance to the house, for the purpose of taking away certain valuable articles constitutes unlawful entry, which if alleged in the complaint would make the crime robbery, but when, as in the present case, no such allegation was made, said circumstance should be taken into account as an aggravating circumstance (circumstance No. 21, article 10 of the Penal Code), with the result that, in the absence of any extenuating circumstance, the penalty must be raised to the maximum degree.10
Furthermore, in the case of People vs. Baello,11 the High Court held that:
The aggravating circumstance of unlawful entry was properly appreciated against the accused as he and his companion, Jerry, had entered the Borja residence through the second-floor window, a way not intended for ingress. The evidence likewise shows that the aggravating circumstance of nocturnity was present in the commission of the crime as the darkness was taken advantage of by the malefactors and such circumstances facilitated their evil designs.12
When is Unlawful Entry not Aggravating?
In Trespass to Dwelling under Article 280 of the Revised Penal Code, unlawful entry is not aggravating. But it is inherent in the crime of trespass to dwelling13 and in robbery with force upon things, as explained above, although it may be considered in robbery with violence or intimidation against persons.
The act of entering through the window, as not the proper means of entry to the house, constitutes unlawful entry. But there is no unlawful entry when the door is broken and thereafter the accused made an entry through the broken door. The breaking of the door is covered by paragraph 19 of Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code.14
The case of People vs. Lamosa,15
Accordingly, the crime committed by the accused-appellants for the killing of Barbara Lucinario is simple Homicide, with the aggravating circumstances of:16
(1) Dwelling since the crime was committed inside the residence of said deceased;17
(2) Breaking a wall or door to gain entry (Art. 14, No. 19, Revised Penal Code), instead of unlawful entry, as erroneously found by the trial court, since the accused-appellants rammed the door off its hinges in order to gain entry, whereas “unlawful entry” exists only when entrance into a building is made by a way not for the purpose of entry;18
(4) armed men pitted against one unarmed woman; and20
(4) Disregard of sex, without any mitigating circumstance to offset the same.21
Now to close the curtains, aggravating circumstances are those that, if present in the commission of the crime, serve to increase the penalty without exceeding the maximum period of the penalty provided by law for the offense.
It is vital to understand that unlawful entry occurs when an entrance is made through an ingress that was not intended for the purpose. The act of entering through the window is illegal because it is not the proper way to enter the house.
In order for the entry to be considered illegal, it must have been made with the intention of committing a crime such as rape or murder. Unlawful entry must be a strategy for gaining access, not for fleeing. If, on the other hand, unlawful entry is inherent in the offense or an element of the crime, such cannot be considered anymore as an aggravating circumstance.
The law punishes them harsher because individuals who act in a way that disregards the walls built by men to protect their property and guarantee their personal safety exhibit greater perversity and arrogance. This is the primary motivation for their actions.
- Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd ed., and The Law Dictionary.
- Article 14, Par. 11 of the Revised Penal Code
- Id., Article 14, Par. 2
- Id., Article 14, Par. 7
- Id., Article 14, Par. 9
- Id., Article 14, Par. 18
- Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code
- Article 14, Par. 18 of the Revised Penal Code
- G.R. No. L-18054. March 18, 1922
- G.R. No. 101314, July 1, 1993
- US vs. Barberan, G.R. No. L-5790, December 16, 1910, 17 Phil. 509
- That as a means to the commission of a crime a wall, roof, floor, door, or window be broken.
- G.R. Nos. 74291-93, May 23, 1989