Generally, a person commits the crime of "criminal trespass" when he or she enters or remains on another's property without the owner's consent. The property in question could be a house, apartment, office building, or sometimes even an automobile or aircraft.
What Does "Without the Owner's Consent" Mean?
In many states, the law assumes that the person knew they didn't have the owner's consent if the owner or someone with the authority to act on behalf of the owner personally communicates this fact to her, if there is a fence around the property, or if there's a sign or other posting on the property that's likely to be seen by intruders.
What are the Consequences of Criminal Trespass?
The consequences of this misdemeanor, like others, vary by state and may include fines or jail time. Consequences may be more severe if there is significant damage to the property trespassed on, or if another crime is committed on the property beyond the trespass.
Do I Have a Defense to Criminal Trespass?
Sometimes, a person can defend against a charge of criminal trespass. Common examples include:
- The conduct of the trespasser did not substantially obstruct the owner's use of his or her property
- The property was open to the public for some specific purpose
- The trespasser exited the property immediately upon being requested
Should I Consult with an Attorney?
The laws surrounding criminal trespass can vary significantly between states, and misdemeanors in general can have serious and lasting consequences. An experienced criminal lawyer can assist you in investigating your options and defenses.