• No trespassing states the sign. Perhaps someone does not want you on their property--or you don't want them on yours. Is trespassing a mere nuisance, or a criminal action? What can be done to a person who commits criminal trespassing? Is there any defense?


    Criminal trespassing is a crime, but the precise definition can vary from state to state, according to the wording and specification of the state laws. Penalties also vary by state. To ensure the exact definition and requirements, consult an attorney or check the laws in the state concerned.


    Criminal trespass occurs by knowingly entering or remaining, unlawfully, in a dwelling or building that is fenced or enclosed in a way designed to keep intruders out. The trespasser, knowing he does not have the owner's consent, enters or remains on the property, establishing the criminal act. While trespass laws commonly focus on buildings and property, any real property is included--even cars and airplanes.


    "Without owner's consent" is an important element of criminal trespassing. In many of the states, the courts presume a knowing lack of consent if they did not get permission from the owner or representative personally. A fence, sign or other posting, or other barriers can also be proof of a lack of consent. Without consent, a guilty intent to trespass is assumed.


    Penalties for criminal trespassing vary by jurisdiction. But in most instances, it is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors almost never involve jail time. A typical conviction will result in a Class C misdemeanor, a fine of $500 to $1,000 and restitution for any damages. Public service and jail or probation can occur, but that is less rare.


    As in all legal issues, past behavior, extenuating circumstances and other concerns can lessen or increase the penalties for criminal trespassing. Criminal trespassing often involves hunter rights issues. Most states also require hunters get permission from the landowner, even if the property is not posted.


    U.S. Legal Definitions

    Crime Definition FAQ


    United States Trespass Laws

    Criminal Trespass Lawyers

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