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Unlawful entry: Barring notice must be valid

Jamison KoehlerOpinions/Cases, Other Criminal Offenses

In unlawful entry cases in which the defendant is charged with violating a D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) barring order, the government must prove that the “barring notice was issued for a reason described in DCHA regulations.”  The government must also offer evidence that “the DCHA official had an objectively reasonable basis for believing that the criteria identified in the relevant regulation were satisfied.”  

That was the D.C. Court of Appeals holding in Winston v. United States, 106 A.3d 1087, 1090 (D.C. 2015).  

Darius Winston was charged with two counts of unlawful entry after he was twice found on DCHA property after being the subject of a barring notice.  The underlying barring order was issued after Winston and another man were found sitting in the courtyard of a DCHA property.  Although the arresting officer confirmed that neither of the two men was a resident of the property or a member of a resident’s household, he did not check to see if either was a guest.  This is because residents are “responsible for their guest at all times,” and neither man was accompanied by a resident.  The government made no effort to prove that Winston was not a guest.  

The DCHA does have authority to “refuse entrance or access to any of its properties to any unauthorized person.”  12 D.C.M.R. § 9600.1.  Authorized persons are defined as residents of the property, member of the resident’s household, and a resident’s guests, except as provided in § 9600.5.  Section 9600.5 authorizes DCHA to bar any guest “who engages in any activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents or DCHA employees” or who violates DCHA policy.  DCHA can also bar guests who are “at a location or unit not specified on the guest pass or visitor log, unless the person is on the most direct route to or from such location, or accompanied personally by the resident being visited.” 12 D.C.M.R. § 9600.5(b)(2).  

There was no proof in this case that Winston threatened “the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises” of other people at the time he was issued the barring notice. The government also failed to prove that Winston was not a guest.  There was thus no basis to confirm the validity of the barring notice that led to his arrest.