In general, trespassing is typically described as an act that occurs when an individual unlawfully enters property that belongs to or is in the possession of another person without that person’s permission. This means that the landowner did not give the individual consent to enter or use their property for any purposes.
On the other hand, criminal trespass is usually defined as an act that occurs when an individual unlawfully enters or remains on property that belongs to someone else. However, the definition for both trespassing and criminal trespassing will vary in accordance with state law.
How Does Washington State Define Criminal Trespass?
According to the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”), which is basically the title ascribed to the current collection of active laws in Washington state, criminal trespass is described as a crime that occurs when an individual:
- Either enters or remains unlawfully in or upon the premises;
- Without a license, invitation, or some other privilege to enter or remain on the premises in question.
The statute for criminal trespass in Washington state defines the term “premises” as any dwelling, building, structure used for commercial aquaculture, or any real property.
A person is said to have “entered” the premises under the statute when either their entire physical person enters the premises, any part of their body enters the property, and/or any instrument or weapon held by a person in their hand and used or intended to be used to threaten a person to remove or detach property.
Does the State Have Degrees of Criminal Trespass?
As previously mentioned, the RCW generally describes the crime of criminal trespass as an event that occurs when an individual enters or remains unlawfully on or within the premises without the owner of the property’s consent.
In addition, the RCW also provides for two separate degrees of criminal trespassing in order to distinguish the difference in severity of the type of criminal trespass committed, as well as the potential legal consequences that may arise if a defendant is convicted of such charges. The two degrees of criminal trespass under the RCW in Washington are as follows:
- Criminal trespass in the first degree: A defendant may be found guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree in Washington if they knowingly enter or remain illegally within a building. A defendant who is charged and convicted of criminal trespass in the first degree will receive the legal penalties reserved for a gross misdemeanor in the state of Washington.
- Criminal trespass in the second degree: On the other hand, a defendant may be found guilty of committing criminal trespass in the second degree if it can be proven that they knowingly entered or remained unlawfully in or on the premises that belonged to or was controlled by another individual and that does not constitute the crime of criminal trespass in the first degree.
- A defendant who is charged and convicted of criminal trespass in the second degree will receive the legal penalties reserved for a simple misdemeanor in the state of Washington.
The difference between criminal trespass in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree in Washington state seems to be that the latter can take place on any premises, while the former must occur by unlawfully entering or remaining within a building.
What is the Punishment for Criminal Trespass in Washington State?
The type of punishment that a criminal defendant can receive if charged and convicted of charges involving the crime of criminal trespassing in Washington state will depend on various factors. These include the nature of the crime, the exact charges issued, the severity of the crime, the facts of a particular case, and the local sentencing guidelines on criminal trespassing imposed in a specific Washington state county.
For example, a criminal defendant who is charged and convicted on criminal trespass charges in the first degree could face a jail sentence of up to one full year in a county jail facility and/or a criminal monetary fine of up to $5,000.
On the other hand, a criminal defendant who is charged and convicted of criminal trespassing charges in the second degree may be required to pay a fine of no more than $1,000 and/or may need to serve a jail term of up to 90 days total.
It is also important to note that a person who is found guilty of committing criminal trespass in the first degree in Washington state will receive an entry for a gross misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record. As for a person who is found guilty of committing criminal trespass in the second degree in Washington state, a conviction on such charges will result in an entry for a simple misdemeanor on their criminal record.
I’ve Been Charged Criminal Trespassing in Seattle, Will the Criminal Trespassing Program Affect My Case?
Generally speaking, it is possible for the Criminal Trespassing Program in Seattle to affect the outcome of a defendant’s criminal trespassing case. Briefly, the Criminal Trespassing Program in the city of Seattle issues each individual property owner a “trespass warning” sign to place on their own property.
Thus, anyone who violates the conditions posted on these types of signs is said to have been notified that they were aware of the fact that they were trespassing on land.
In addition, a defendant who is found to have violated the conditions listed on a trespass warning sign for a second time on the same property in Seattle could potentially face even more severe legal penalties.
Are There Any Common Defenses to Criminal Trespassing?
There are a number of legal defenses that a criminal defendant may be able to raise when facing charges for criminal trespassing. Some common examples of the legal defenses that one can use in a criminal trespassing case may include the following:
- That the property was abandoned and did not belong to anyone;
- That the defendant was on the property to specifically serve legal papers (e.g., a complaint and summons, divorce papers, a ticket, etc.);
- That the defendant did not interfere, damage, or obstruct the property;
- That the defendant did not mean to intentionally enter the property in question;
- That the defendant complied with the lawful conditions imposed on the property and the property was open to members of the general public at the time;
- That the defendant reasonably believed that the owner or someone else who had control over the property had given them license to remain on the property; and/or
- That the defendant had permission or consent to be on the property from someone who owns or was in possession of the property at the time the defendant supposedly trespassed.
Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding My Trespassing Charge?
If you or a loved one are facing charges for committing criminal trespass in the state of Washington, then it is strongly encouraged that you hire a Washington criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A Washington lawyer who has experience in handling criminal matters will already be familiar with the relevant laws in your county. They will be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have about criminal trespass charges in Washington state.
Your lawyer will also be able to assist you in navigating the Washington state criminal justice system and can perform legal research to determine whether there are any defenses you can raise against the charges in your criminal case. In addition, your lawyer can help you to prepare a solid defensive argument as well as can inform you of your rights as a criminal defendant under the laws in your state.
Finally, your lawyer can also discuss the potential penalties that you may be facing based on the outcome of your case and can attempt to get any of the punishments you may receive to either be reduced or completely dropped. Your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation in court, or alternatively, can negotiate with a prosecutor for a more favorable plea deal on your behalf as well.