A trespasser is anyone who enters another’s property or overstays the permitted time on another’s property without permission or authority to do so. An invited guest can be a trespasser once their invitation expires or when they fail to leave the property after being ordered to do so by the owner.
In most states, trespassing is a crime and can create civil liability on the part of the trespasser and they may be required to pay damages to the owner.
Is it Trespassing If the Trespasser Did Not Intend to be There?
No. Trespassing is both an intentional crime and an intentional tort. Thus, one of the elements to proving trespass is the existence of intent on the part of the trespasser. Intent means the trespasser intended to enter or remain on the property, for example.
Accidental entrance or becoming unable to leave the property once ordered off may be examples of no intent.
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Does the Trespasser Have to be Inside the Property to be Trespassing?
No. The trespasser can use other objects other than their body to “enter” the property. Throwing rocks, litter, or other items onto the owner’s property may be considered trespassing. However, causing smoke or loud noise is not trespassing. Such unwanted actions may be considered a nuisance.
What can a Landowner Do to Eject a Trespasser?
In most jurisdictions, a landowner must first tell the trespasser to leave or call the police if they fail to do so. “Self-help” methods such as physically removing the trespasser are usually illegal. Detaining a trespasser is frequently illegal as well even if the landowner is doing so only until police arrive.
What Can a Landowner to Do Prevent Trespassing?
Landowners can use signs and fencing to inform potential trespassers that their property is private and such persons cannot enter. However, landowners may not create traps or use physically harmful methods to hurt potential trespassers.
What Happens If the Trespasser Has Been on the Property for a Long Period of Time?
Sometimes an unwanted guest or squatter is no longer a trespasser if they have been there for a significant amount of time. In such cases, they may be treated as a non-paying or unauthorized tenant. Each jurisdiction has their own time requirements and procedures for removing such a person.
In most states, the landowner must provide a notice to the “tenant” to leave the property. If the “tenant” fails to do so within the legal time frame, then the landowner may file a legal eviction and the “tenant”can be removed by police after the eviction is granted.
Can a Trespasser Sue the Property Owner if the Trespasser is Injured on the Property?
In some rare cases, yes, the trespasser can sue the owner for an injury. Landowners must warn of any known hidden defects in the property by way of a sign or other means to potential trespassers. However, there is usually no duty to inspect the property for such dangers in warning trespassers.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have been accused of trespassing, then a local personal injury lawyer may assist in defending you in civil court. If you have been criminally charged with trespassing, a criminal defense lawyer can defend you against prosecution.
For landowners who wish to protect themselves from trespassers or to sue a trespasser, then a local real estate lawyer or a personal injury lawyer can assist you.