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Trespassing Laws, Charges and Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Trespassing is a type of crime in which a person has entered a property or remained on it without permission or authorization. This includes criminal trespassing, which can be a state or federal offense. However, the individual committing the trespassing must have been informed either verbally or through writing by an individual with authority that they are indeed trespassing. Generally speaking, the laws pertaining to trespassing vary depending on the state.

Trespassing Laws

Individuals who are caught trespassing can face criminal and civil charges, although the act is always considered a crime. The laws of trespassing vary depending on the state. At the same time, most states require the prosecution to prove that the defendant knowingly entered or remained on a property belonging to another person while not having the authorization to be on it. However, the manner in which the individual can receive authorization depends on the state as well.

Trespassing is a crime that is charged as a misdemeanor, but in some instances, a person can be charged with felony trespassing. Whether they receive a felony charge depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime. a defendant who is arrested and subsequently convicted of trespassing usually receives a fine and even a jail or prison term. There are also usually civil charges the person can face that are instituted by the owner of the property.

Penalties for Trespassing

Trespassing is commonly linked with other crimes such as burglary but is considered less serious. As previously mentioned, some situations can result in a trespassing conviction being classed as a felony. The specific penalties that come with a conviction depend on the state but may be severe. In some cases, a person can receive a fine ranging from $250 to $500 and jail time lasting 90 days or a full year in prison.

It’s very common that the most severe penalties for trespassing come from civil lawsuits rather than from the criminal charges. For instance, a property owner can choose to sue for damages even if the property and people are unharmed. This can result in hefty fines and even a restraining order that states the individual must stay off the property.

Sentencing for Trespassing

Sentencing for a trespassing conviction also varies depending on the state and the severity of the crime. There are different degrees of a trespassing conviction as well, which include the following:

Trespassing in the first degree: A person is charged with a felony if they are convicted of first-degree trespassing. This form of trespass is committed when the individual has the intention of committing another crime while on the property. A conviction usually includes a fine and up to three years in prison.
Trespassing in the second degree: This crime is considered a Class A misdemeanor and is committed when a person enters or remains on a property without legal permission. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, one year in jail and/or three months of probation.
Trespassing in the third degree: As a Class B misdemeanor, this crime occurs when someone enters private property that is marked as such or fenced off. Punishment includes a fine and/or three months of jail time.

Statute of Limitations for Trespassing

All states have a statute of limitations for trespass cases. This is the exact amount of time a plaintiff has to file a case with the court. While it varies depending on the state, on average, the statute of limitations for trespassing is two years.

Elements of Trespassing

There are certain components that make up the elements of trespassing. They include the following:

Intent: In order for a person to be guilty of trespassing, they must intend to commit the act of illegally entering a property or remaining on it.
Notice or a warning: There must be a warning given to the individual, such as a “no trespassing” sign, a fence or locked doors. Another warning can be verbal, directly from the property owner or manager.
Specific acts: Some states require a person to have committed specific acts in order to be accused of trespassing, such as hunting, cutting something or entering a vehicle.

Even though certain areas are open to the public, a person can be convicted of trespassing when entering them as well. For example, if a store is locked up for the night but a person opens a window and enters the property, this is considered criminal trespassing.

A person charged with criminal trespassing should immediately retain a criminal defense attorney.

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