Home invasion

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For other uses, see Home invasion (disambiguation).

In the United States, a home invasion is an illegal and usually forceful entry to an occupied, private dwelling with intent to commit a violent crime against the occupants, such as robbery, assault, rape, murder, or kidnapping.[1][2]


In some jurisdictions, there is a defined crime of home invasion; in others, there is no crime defined as home invasion, but events that accompany the invasion are charged as crimes. Where home invasion is defined, the definition and punishments vary by jurisdiction.[3] It is not a legally defined federal offense throughout the United States, but is in several states, such as Michigan,[4] Connecticut,[5] Illinois,[6] Florida,[7] Louisiana,[8] and in Las Vegas, Nevada.[9] Home invasion laws also have been introduced in the South Carolina[10] General Assembly and in the State of Maryland.[11] On March 15, 2011, a bill making home invasion deaths a capital crime in New Hampshire[12] passed the New Hampshire House without debate. Home invasion as such is not defined as a crime in most countries other than the US.[13]

Home invasion differs from burglary in that its perpetrators have a violent intent apart from the unlawful entry itself, specific or general, much the same way as aggravated robbery—personally taking from someone by force—is differentiated from mere larceny (theft alone). As the term becomes more frequently used, particularly by the media, "home invasion" is evolving to identify a particular class of crime that involves multiple perpetrators (two or more); forced entry into a home; occupants who are home at the time of the invasion; use of weapons and physical intimidation; property theft; and victims who are unknown, but sometimes known, to the perpetrators.[14][unreliable source?]


Few statistics are available on the crime of home invasion as such, because it is not defined as a crime in its own right in most jurisdictions. Statistics about home invasion found on the Internet are often false or misleading.[15] Persons arrested for what the police or media may refer to as "home invasion" are actually charged with crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, homicide, rape, or assault.

Terminology and home invasion as a crime

The first published use of the term "home invasion" recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is an article in The Washington Post on 1 February 1912,[16] with an article in the Los Angeles Times on 18 March 1925 clearly indicating the modern meaning.[17]

"Home-invasion robberies" were highlighted in June 1995, when the term appeared in the cover story of The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in an article written by Police Chief James T. Hurley[18] of the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, area, later republished on bNet, the online blog posted by Harvard Business School. Hurley posited that, at the time, the crime could be considered an alternative to bank or convenience store robberies, which were becoming more difficult to carry out due to technological advances in security. In the same article Hurley recommended educating the public about home invasion.[19] Before the term "home invasion" came in use, the term "hot burglary" was often used in the literature. Early references also use "burglary of occupied homes"[20] and "burglar striking an occupied residence".[21]

Connecticut Congressman Chris Murphy proposed in 2008 making home invasion a federal crime in the United States.[22][23]

Notable examples

One well-known home invasion is the November 15, 1959, quadruple murder of the Clutter family by Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith during a home-invasion robbery in rural Holcomb, Kansas. The murders were detailed in Truman Capote's "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood. However, the perpetrators were convicted of murder, not home invasion.[24]

More recently, two paroled criminals were each charged with three counts of capital murder during a home invasion into the Petit family home in Cheshire, Connecticut on July 23, 2007. During the invasion, the mother died of asphyxiation due to strangulation and the two daughters died of smoke inhalation after the suspects set the house on fire. The men were charged with first-degree sexual assault, murder of a kidnapped person, and murder of two or more people at the same time. The state attorney sought the death penalty against the suspects.[25] The first defendant, Steven Hayes, was found guilty of 16 of 17 counts including capital murder on October 5, 2010 and on November 8, 2010 was sentenced to death. His co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was convicted of all 17 counts against him in October 2011, and was also sentenced to death.

Another home invasion occurred on November 26, 2007 when Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was murdered during an overnight home invasion of his suburban Miami home. Four defendants were charged with this crime.[26]

Many U.S. states (particularly those that endorse the Castle Doctrine) include defending oneself against forcible entry of one's home as part of their definition of justifiable homicide without any obligation to retreat.[27]


  1. K. David Benton, Stop The Intruder: A Guide to Home Security (Atlanta: Gold Seal Productions, 2012), 46-47.
  2. "Home Invasion Law & Legal Definition". Definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  3. "A Review of State Home Invasion Laws in the U.S.". Home Invasion News. July 26, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  4. "Michigan Home Invasion Legislature". 1931. Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  5. "New CT home invasion law effective Tuesday". Necn.com. June 29, 2008. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  6. "Burglary Defense Lawyer in Chicago | Chicago Burglary Defense Attorney". Chicagoviolentcrimes.com. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  7. "Florida Laws: FL Statutes – Title XLVI Crimes Section 812.005 Short title. – Florida Attorney Resources – Florida Laws". Law.onecle.com. March 26, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  8. "RS 14:62.8 Home invasion :: TITLE 14 Criminal law :: Revised Statutes :: 2009 Louisiana Code :: Louisiana Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia". Law.justia.com. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  9. "Nevada "Home Invasion" Laws – Explained by Las Vegas Defense Lawyers". Shouselaw.com. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  10. "2011–2012 Bill 148: Home Invasion Protection Act – South Carolina Legislature Online". Scstatehouse.gov. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  11. "BILL INFO-2011 Regular Session-HB 790". Mlis.state.md.us. September 19, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  12. "NH bill makes home invasion deaths capital crime". BostonHerald.com. Associated Press. March 15, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  13. "What is Home Invasion (definition in Australia)" (PDF). c. 2000. Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  14. "What's A "Classic" Home Invasion?". Home Invasion News. June 22, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  15. "If You See These Home Invasion Statistics, Don’t Look.". Home Invasion News. June 29, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  16. OED, 4th ed 2004: 1912 Washington Post 1 Feb. 4/3 (heading) Child Bureau wins. Senate passes bill after prohibiting home invasion.
  17. OED, 4th ed 2004: 1925 Los Angeles Times 18 Mar. ii. 11/1 (heading) Trio hunted in home invasion. Woman reports attack on twin daughters.
  18. "Fernandina Beach, FL – Official Website – Home Invasion". Fbfl.us. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  19. "Violent crime hits home: home invasion robbery | FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,The | Find Articles at BNET". Findarticles.com. 1995. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  20. Southwick, Lawrence, Jr. (1999). "Guns and Justifiable Homicide: Deterrence and Defense". St. Louis U Pub Law Rev. 18: 217 [p. 227]. 
  21. Wright, James; Rossi, Peter; Daly, Kathleen (1983). Under the Gun. New York: Aldine. p. 15. ISBN 0-202-30305-5. 
  22. "Chris Murphy". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2015. 
  23. http://www.chrismurphy.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=44&Itemid=55
  24. Crime library article on Clutter family murders
  25. http://www.wfsb.com/cheshirecase/13762474/detail.html
  26. "SEAN TAYLOR MURDER: Men arrested held without bond". WINK News. December 1, 2007. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2008. 
  27. K. David Benton, Stop the Intruder: A Guide to Home Security (Atlanta: Gold Seal Productions, 2012), 81–82.