A property owner has the right to use his or her property in any
manner that is not otherwise prohibited by law. Part of this right
includes being able to use the property exclusively and preventing other
people from entering the property without permission. Trespassing is a
crime where someone else enters or stays on the property without consent
You commit a
criminal trespass whenever you enter onto property which you know you
do not have the right to enter, or remain on property after learning you
do not have the right to be there. Trespassing can occur on both
private and public property, and you do not have to receive a verbal
warning that the property is off limits. Even if you enter a structure
or property with the owner's permission, you can still commit
trespassing if the owner later orders you to leave but you choose to
A person convicted of
criminal trespass faces a range of penalties. In most criminal trespass
situations courts do not impose significant jail penalties, fines, or
lengthy probation periods, though the potential penalties differ among states. Trespassing is typically considered a minor crime and is not
usually associated with stiff penalties. However, depending on the
circumstances of the case and the laws in your state, a trespassing
conviction can lead to a significant jail sentence and other penalties.
- Degrees. Many states have laws that differentiate between different types or severities of trespassing. A
state might, for instance, have laws that punish both first-degree and
second-degree trespassing. First-degree trespass is typically more
serious than second-degree, with first degree usually involving entry
into a home, a private building, or onto land that is clearly marked as
private. Second-degree trespassing is less serious, typically involving
entering onto property that isn't clearly fenced off or private, or
remaining on a property after being told by the owner to leave.
- Jail. While
state laws allow judges the ability to impose a jail sentence for
trespassing, convictions that result in jail time are uncommon. The
potential jail sentences for most trespassing convictions range from
several days to several months in jail. However, some states allow for
up to a year or more in jail for the most serious trespassing crimes.
- Time served.
It's common for someone caught trespassing to be arrested and placed in
jail. If you are later convicted the trespassing charge the court may
choose to sentence you to what is known as “time served.” When a court
sentences you to time served, it decides to count the time that you have
already spent in jail as your punishment. As with a jail sentence, a
court can impose a time served sentence in addition to a fine or other
- Fines. A person convicted
of trespassing most often faces a fine as a penalty. Fines can be
imposed either separately from or in addition to jail sentences.
Trespassing fines vary widely, from a few hundred dollars to as much as
$4,000 or more. Like jail sentences, trespassing fines are dependent on
state law and the circumstances of the crime, and laws allow courts to
impose a range of fines. For example, a conviction for trespassing may
result in a fine of as little as $25 or as much as $1,000.
- Court costs.
Upon a conviction for trespassing courts will almost always require you
to pay court costs. Court costs are designed to reimburse the court or
prosecutors for the costs spent during the criminal justice process.
Court costs differ between states but are typically at least $100 or
more. Court costs are imposed in addition to fines, jail time, or other
- Probation. Someone
convicted of criminal trespassing may also have to serve a period of
probation. Probation periods typically last about 12 months, though they
can be longer. When you are sentenced to probation you must comply with
various probation conditions, such as not breaking any more laws and
paying all fines and court costs. If you violate any of these conditions
a court can impose additional penalties, such as lengthening the
probation period or ordering you to serve time in jail. Probation is
typically supervised or unsupervised.
- Supervised probation.
A person sentenced to supervised probation must regularly meet with a
probation officer and comply with the officer's orders. Supervised
probation may also require you to allow the probation officer to search
your home, your vehicle, or order you to take random drug tests.
Supervised probation is commonly imposed as a sentence in situations
where the trespassing charge was more serious or where an offender has a
previous criminal record.
- Unsupervised probation.
If you are sentenced to unsupervised probation you must still comply
with all the probation conditions the court imposes, but do not need to
regularly meet with a probation officer or be supervised by one.
Unsupervised probation is more common in trespassing cases where the
offender does not have previous convictions.
Speaking with an Attorney
though trespassing is not usually a serious offense, you still need to
speak to a local criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with a
crime. Anytime you face a criminal charge you have specific rights
guaranteed to you under the law. Only an experienced criminal defense
attorney can give you advice on how to protect these rights. A local
defense attorney will also have experience with local prosecutors and
judges and can give you advice based both on the facts of your case and
on his or her experience with the local criminal justice system. Being
convicted of trespassing can result not only in fines, jail or
probation, but will also saddle you with a a criminal record that will
follow you for the rest of your life. You need to speak to an attorney
as soon as possible if you're ever arrested for or charged with