Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
State v. Burhans, 89 P.3d 629 (Kan. 2004).
This case addresses the following issue:
Must the plaintiff present evidence of actual or constructive knowledge in order to support a criminal trespass conviction?
This case explored the issue of whether a plaintiff must present evidence of actual or constructive knowledge in order to support a criminal trespass conviction. According to State v. Williams, actual notice occurred when an individual was advised that he or she was entering or was within another person’s property where he or she had no right to be without permission. 556 P.2d 184, 187. Furthermore, constructive notice occurred when an individual should have realized that he or she was entering another person’s property where he or she had no right to be without permission. Id. In exploring this issue, the court held that the State (plaintiff in this case) must present evidence of actual or constructive notice in order to support a criminal trespass conviction. State v. Burhans, 89 P.3d 629, 638 (Kan. 2004).
In this case, the defendant was a bail bondsman who was searching for an individual whose bond had been revoked. Id. at 631. The defendant had been told by a local bail agent that the individual lived with his sister and her husband. Id. Upon arriving at the sister’s house, the defendant falsely told the sister that he was there to install a house security system. Id. Once the sister told the defendant she had not requested a house security system, the defendant asked if he could step inside the house to make a phone call. Id. Once the defendant was inside the house, he alerted the sister that he was there to arrest her brother. Id. The sister then told the defendant her brother did not live there and asked the defendant to leave. Id. In response, the defendant refused to leave the house and the sister had to push him out of the doorway to get him out. Id. Once being kicked out of the house, the defendant called the local police for assistance. Id. Subsequently, an officer showed up and declined to assist the defendant. Id. After the officer left, the defendant grabbed his handgun and a can of mace and approached the sister’s driveway. Id. at 632. The sister’s husband then came out of the front door and told the defendant that he was not welcome to come into the yard and was trespassing. Id. Ignoring the request, the defendant approached the front door with the can of mace pointed at the sister’s husband. Id. Eventually, the police arrived and arrested the defendant. Id. At trial, the defendant was convicted of criminal trespass. Id.
On appeal, the defendant argued the court erred in finding him guilty of criminal trespass because he had the authority as a bondsman to return to and remain on the property. Id. at 638. In addressing the defendant’s argument, the Supreme Court of Kansas examined the Kansas criminal trespass statute. Id. While examining the statute, the court noted that the statute was not a model of clarity, and it could be said that the notice provision under the statute seemed to be unnecessary because the statute also required “knowing unauthorized entry.” Id. Nevertheless, the court held that the State (plaintiff) must present evidence of actual or constructive notice in order to support a criminal trespass conviction. Id.
With regard to this case, the evidence showed that the defendant tricked the sister into letting him into the house, which weakened his argument that he had authority or privilege to enter the property. Id. Furthermore, when the defendant announced his true purpose of being inside the house, the sister told him to leave and pushed him out. Id. Additionally, after he returned to the property, the sister’s husband told him to stop and that he was trespassing. Id. Nonetheless, the defendant continued to approach the house. Id. Therefore, the court concluded that the State presented ample evidence of actual notice to prove that the defendant was guilty of criminal trespass. Id