While this might seem like a ridiculous question, my friend Mark will tell you that it is no laughing matter when it happens to you. You might need to buy him a drink or two first, but if you do he will tell you the sad and tragic tale of how he locked himself out of his home on cold winter’s eve, and how his neighbours, with the best of intentions, called the police when they saw what they thought was a burglar trying to break into Mark’s house.

And if you do see him, give Mark a hug too. Mark likes hugs. A little too much, sometimes.

In Mark’s case, it all worked out perfectly fine. By the time the police arrived at Mark’s home, he had already climbed in through an unlocked window and was getting ready for bed. When the police knocked on the door and demanded to see some identification, Mark showed his drivers’ licence, which had his home address, he apologised to the police for the misunderstanding, and everyone had a laugh.

However, if Mark had decided to get abusive with the policemen when they arrived, or verbally attacked them (his insults are scathing, and always hilarious) things could have gone differently for him. He could have been arrested for obstructing the police or insulting and abusing them. While he would not technically have been arrested for breaking and entering into his own home, he still could have been arrested because he broke into his own home. Close enough, for our purposes today.

Let’s look at another example, from the good old U. S. of A., that did not end in everyone having a laugh. Rather, through a chain of events that no one could have seen coming at the time, this story ended with everyone involved having a drink with President Obama at the White House. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the start.

We begin our tale when respected African-American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested in 2009 outside of his house in Massachusetts.

Just like the situation with my mate Mark, a neighbour saw someone trying to break into Mr Gates’s home. What the neighbour did not appreciate was that the person breaking in was Mr Gates himself. The neighbour immediately called the police, who were on the scene in minutes and confronted Mr Gates while he was still trying to get his front door unlocked. Again, just like Mark, Mr Gates showed the police his licence with his correct home address, thinking this would be all it would take to resolve the matter. Unfortunately the police thought the licence was a fake. When they demanded to see more evidence, Mr Gates did what Mark did not; he got loud and began abusing the police officers. He was arrested, taken to the local police station, questioned, and eventually released.

It just so happened that Mr Gates was good friends with President Obama. After the media got hold of both the story and the friendship, the whole thing became a bit of a media and political shitstorm, particularly given Mr Gates’ race and the inevitable claims of racial discrimination and police targeting. To bring the matter to an end as quickly as possible, President Obama invited the people involved for a drink at his house to clear the air. They sorted their differences, finally had that laugh, and all lived happily ever after. Except for President Obama, who a few years later had to hand the keys to the White House over to Donald Trump so that America could supposedly be made great again.

While the general rule is that you cannot be charged for breaking into your own home provided you don’t do anything else illegal at the same time, there is one important exception to this. A person can be arrested for breaking and entering into a home they own or rent if, for some reason, that person has no legal right to access their home.

This becomes an issue when there is an abusive relationship between a couple living together, and the abused partner is meant to be protected by a court order preventing the violent partner from coming to the home. If the violent partner breaches that order by trying to break into ‘his’ or ‘her’ home, the violent partner has committed a crime and will hopefully be arrested and charged. This is the case even if the home is still wholly or partly owned (or rented under the name of) the violent partner.

I don’t mean to tell you how to organise your personal shit (hang on, isn’t that the purpose of my book?) but the examples above seem to suggest that the best way to break into your own home is to do it without your neighbours seeing you. To achieve this, I recommend you wait until it is dark. Better wear a balaclava too, to keep warm, and dress in all black to be cool and sexy. That will not attract any attention at all, I promise.