Criminal Trespass Attorney Helping Clients Facing Charges in Mesa
Criminal trespass is different from burglary in the sense that a person is committing a crime simply by entering or remaining on someone else’s property without the owner’s consent — even if they have no intention of stealing or damaging anything. Criminal trespass is a serious charge in Arizona, and anyone charged with criminal trespass is facing the potential of paying expensive fines and spending time in jail. Our criminal trespass lawyers explain what you need to know about trespass laws in Arizona and what you can do if you have been arrested or charged.
What Is Considered Criminal Trespass in Arizona?
A person can be charged with criminal trespass after entering a commercial and residential property without authorization and/or remaining at the property after being asked to leave. This is different from the crime of trespass in which the person enters private property without necessarily having the knowledge that their entering and remaining there is illegal. In order to be charged with criminal trespass, one of the elements that must be proven is that the individual was fully aware of the fact that they did not have the authorization to enter or remain on the property.
Is Criminal Trespass a Felony or a Misdemeanor in Arizona?
Criminal trespass can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Arizona, depending on whether the trespasser is charged with a first, second or third-degree charge. Criminal trespassing in the third degree is the least serious of all three offenses and is usually considered a misdemeanor which may still result in fines and jail time. If dealing with a second-degree criminal trespassing charge (which involves entering or remaining unlawfully in a nonresidential structure), a trespasser may face harsher penalties and higher fines.
If charged with first-degree criminal trespass, an individual may be facing a Class 1 Misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony depending on the severity of the crime and aggravating factors. A person can be charged with first-degree criminal trespass if he or she entered a residential property and/or engaged in certain actions such as destroying a religious symbol without the owner’s permission or standing in the yard and looking inside the residence through a window. In addition, entering and remaining on a real property that has minerals with the intent to hold, work or take minerals from the site without permission is also considered first-degree criminal trespass. The same applies to unlawfully entering or remaining in a public facility. If charged with a class 6 felony, an individual may face up to 18 months in jail and a hefty fine of up to $150,000.00.
Is Entering a Property Where a No Trespassing Sign Is Not Visible Still a Crime?
In Arizona, a person can be charged with criminal trespass regardless of whether a “no trespassing” sign is posted or visible upon entering the property. Simply entering the area or building without the owner’s authorization (and being fully aware that you are not authorized to enter and deciding to do so anyway) is a crime. It is also illegal to remain on the property after being asked to leave.
Certain cities in Arizona allow for property owners to grant permission for law enforcement officers to patrol their property and arrest any trespassers as long as no trespassing signs are posted according to city rules. Even if a property owner has not submitted an authority to arrest form, a person can still be charged with criminal trespass if caught.
What Are Possible Defenses for a Criminal Trespass Charge?
There are a few commonly used defense strategies used to fight back against criminal trespass charges. Working with a seasoned criminal trespass attorney can make the difference in your case and help you downgrade your charges or get them dismissed altogether. One of the strategies an attorney may use is a consent defense, in which he or she may argue that the property owner gave you their consent for you to enter or that they did not take any actions to make you leave, thus giving you implied consent.
There is also the public necessity defense strategy, in which your defense attorney can argue that you entered the property because you needed to take immediate action to address an issue that was threatening the community or public interest. For example, if you discover that there is a fire in someone else’s yard and the homeowner is not currently present, you may argue that you entered with the intent to put out the fire and keep it from spreading to other houses.
Another possible defense that may be harder to use but still applicable in some situations is the private necessity defense, in which you may argue that you entered the property because you were trying to protect yourself from imminent danger or were in fear for your life (because someone was trying to hurt you, for example). Finally, an attorney may argue you trespassed because you were attempting to recover ownership of property that belongs to you by law — a strategy known as the privilege defense.
If you have been accused or arrested for criminal trespass in Arizona, there are many ways an attorney can help you fight back. Reach out to the legal team at the Naegle Law Firm, PLC at our Mesa office at (480) 378-9000 and schedule a time to speak to our criminal trespass lawyer to see how we can help you.