Trespassing is the legal term that refers to the act of entering onto another person’s property without express consent or permission. A criminal trespassing charge will often only apply if there is intent, i.e., knowledge that the property is private before entering. You can also be charged with trespassing on public property if it is a restricted area.
Trespassing a charge that can be associated with other criminal offenses, like harassment, stalking, or violation of a restraining order in domestic cases, or burglary in theft cases. It can also be applied to electronic trespassing or hacking/computer crime.
Trespassing laws are also applied in cases of disorderly conduct, loitering, and situations where homeless people are being harassed.
As you can see, these broadly applied statutes require legal experience to unpack and determine what is really going on in any particular criminal trespassing case.
Every state will have different laws and statutes pertaining to trespassing, but we will provide a general overview of the laws and penalties associated with those who are accused of trespassing on another’s property. You will find the best advice on how to address your specific situation by discussing it with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your state. They will be able to give you detailed, one-on-one advice about your best course of action to take care of the charges placed against you.
The reason that you trespassed is important to the legal process in this case. If you trespassed with ‘intent,’ i.e., you knew that you were entering private property without permission; the penalties will be more severe. If you just wandered onto the property without knowing that you were on someone else’s land, your case may be dropped.
For you to understand that you were trespassing on private property, the land would have to have a fence or a ‘no trespassing’ sign posted. Without proper notification, you would have to actually damage the property to be charged with trespassing. Knowledge of the nature of the property is almost always the most important indicator in this type of case.
Similarly, trespassing on public property can be charged if you walk into an area restricted for pedestrians other unauthorized use, such as walking through a tunnel or across a public bridge that has been marked for no pedestrians.
Trespassing on restricted government property or sensitive security areas
If the state or the Feds are concerned about what you were doing in a sensitive location, they may charge you with trespassing as a pretext to investigate your behavior further.
If they have any reason to suspect that your action could be a public safety threat, you can expect a lot of scrutiny by the authorities, fair or not. Threats and fear of terrorism can make even taking photos of bridges or tunnels, electrical power stations, or wandering into protected areas with a public water supply a serious issue.
In addition, if you are there to protest, the police may charge you with trespassing to get you off the property and discourage further actions by others.
If you are a hunter, you are not permitted to trespass on another’s property. However, some states will treat the situation differently if you were hunting when you trespassed on the property. Some states allow hunters to enter property that is not labeled with a fence, sign, or some other marker, and others may have a legal provision that allows hunters to trespass to save a wounded animal or hunting dog.
Trespass by Animals
If your livestock are found off of your property, you may be liable for damages that they cause. Most states have adopted laws that only require livestock owners to pay for damages made within a fenced in area.
With the advent of the Internet, many different methods for trespassing into someone’s private life online have surfaced. This type of crime may also be punishable by law since the unlawful use of software or viruses to extract information is prohibited. Electronic trespassing laws are expanding into criminal statutes nationwide.
Penalties for Trespassing
Simple trespass is the act of entering property unlawfully without the intent to harm or damage individuals or the property. The penalty for this type of trespassing is usually a summons, and this type of sanction does not appear on your court record.
However, you can be arrested for misdemeanor trespassing, usually in cases where the police believe you are either being willfully disruptive, or trying to gain access to sensitive areas.
First Degree Trespassing is the act of trespassing with intent, knowing that he or she does not have permission to enter the property. Penalties for this crime usually will not exceed one year in jail and a fine.
Second Degree Trespassing is another form of trespassing that is accidental, and the fines are significantly less. If you are charged with second-degree trespassing, you will typically be fined $1,000 or be sentenced to 6 months in jail.
Defending Yourself Against a Trespassing Charge
Regardless of whether you intentionally entered the property or you are being falsely accused of trespassing with intent, an attorney can help you understand the best actions that you can take to help reduce your sentence. Since the laws are complex, talking to a local defense attorney who knows how trespassing laws are prosecuted and applied in your state is the only way to know where you stand.
And because trespassing is a fairly trivial charge that is often not pursued, the fact that you were charged with a crime often means there is more going on in the case than simply wandering onto property where you are not allowed.
A trespassing arrest or criminal citation is much more likely to occur because:
- You were being disruptive or engaged in a political protest
- You were deliberately violation trespassing laws to be disruptive
- You trespassed onto a sensitive security area, either on purpose or accidentally
In all of these cases, there is more to the story than a very minor accidental offense. For these reasons, you need a criminal defense attorney to advocate for you, and protect your rights against an aggressive prosecution, whatever the situation.
Please call us today to arrange a free consultation with a local defense lawyer today!