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Criminal Trespassing Explained

November 4, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

There are criminal charges that may not be as serious as violent crimes or other felonies, but yet can lead to significant criminal penalties. Trespassing is one such charge.

Legally, there are actually two types of trespassing: criminal and civil. As the names suggest, civil trespass relies on the owner of a piece of private property to sue the alleged trespasser for damages. Criminal trespass law is enforced by police, park rangers and similar law enforcement agents.

The general definition of trespassing is fairly basic. It is the entering of land that belongs to another party without the landowner’s consent. But there is a little more to it, specifically intent.

As with many crimes, knowledge and intent are elements of trespassing. In other words, prosecutors must prove that the defendant knew he or she lacked permission to enter a piece of land, but intentionally did so anyway. A person can be considered to have knowledge that they are not allowed inside property by the fact the owner put up a fence or “no trespassing” sign. Prosecution is much less likely when the alleged trespassing took place in an open field.

Consent can be another issue. A defendant may argue that the landowner expressly or implicitly consented to letting him or her enter. Express consent can be a verbal or written invitation.

Implied consent can involve the landowner’s conduct, custom, or the particular circumstances of the alleged trespass. For example, say you have been taking a shortcut on a path through your neighbor’s yard for years without any complaint from the neighbor. If the neighbor suddenly has you arrested, you could have a strong case that you had implicit consent to use the shortcut.

Any criminal charge against you deserves your full attention, and a defense attorney can help you clear your name or avoid the most serious penalties available.

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