Ordinance to take aim at illegal, often drunk, entrants

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 25, 2019

Shutterstock image


ROYAL OAK — On June 10, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would give the city more local control when dealing with individuals whom residents have discovered inside their homes without their permission.

The ordinance would amend the city code to make entry into any dwelling, house, apartment, garage or other building without permission from the owner a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

Royal Oak City Attorney David Gillam said that police have arrested a handful of individuals in the past several months who entered homes because they were highly intoxicated, unfamiliar with the area or both, and not because they intended to commit other crimes once inside.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an increase. We get these from time to time, and we’ve had a state law we can enforce, as well as other ordinances we can enforce, but we wanted a local ordinance so we don’t have to get the state prosecutor on it and we can get a local charge,” Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue said.

He said homeowners don’t have to press charges and that the ordinance would allow local law enforcement and the city’s legal department to bring the local charge.

“People respond to this in a lot of different ways. While some think it’s funny, most people are put off by it and upset,” O’Donohue said. “The charges aren’t over the top, and in our local court, if there is an issue with alcohol, then the probation department can get involved and get the person the help they need.”

Gillam said city code does prohibit trespassing, but a person must either have had prior notice not to enter onto the property or refuse to leave the property after being told to do so by the owner.

“There is a gray area there for property that isn’t posted,” Gillam said. “The goal (of the illegal entry ordinance is to make) it easier for the Police Department to deal with situations that arise.”

Charging individuals under state law is administratively a more difficult and time-consuming process, he said.

Mayor Michael Fournier voted in favor of the first reading of the ordinance, but said the notion of permission could possibly raise complications.

“I do think this is going to be interesting when you have situations like domestic separations and things like that,” Fournier said. “Obviously, there’s definitions of what permission is, and the courts and judges and police can interpret if it’s an implied permission, an explicit permission, an entitled permission, all of that.”

He pointed out that the ordinance simply states “permission.”

“It’s not perfect,” Fournier said. “We’ll still have instances where people disagree, but that’s what the courts are for.”

The ordinance will take effect 10 days after passage of the second reading, which was on the consent agenda for the June 24 City Commission meeting, after press time.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.