Criminal trespass is one of those crimes that people think they understand instinctually because the name seems to be a definition. However, there are different degrees of criminal trespassing and this means that it is easier to commit than most people believe because of the range of activities that fall under criminal trespass.

If you are charged with criminal trespass, it is vital that you pick the right defense for the situation. This will depend largely on the specifics of the criminal and the degree of criminal trespass you were charged with. We’re going to explore these crimes in depth below so you’ll fully understand the situation you’ve found yourself in.

We’ll start by looking at the different degrees that criminal trespassing can be charged. This will give us legal definitions of the actions that fall under each degree. From there we’ll look at their corresponding penalties, should you be found guilty. Finally, we’ll look at which defenses are most commonly used and successful.

What Are the Degrees of Criminal Trespassing?

There are three degrees of criminal trespass. While typically a misdemeanor, first-degree criminal trespass charges may be considered a class six or class five felony in the right (or wrong) circumstances.

  • Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree: This is committed when an individual knowingly enters or remains unlawfully on any real property after a reasonable request to leave by a law enforcement officer, the owner, or any other person with control over the property; or when they knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on the right-of-way for tracks, or any other off-limits area of a railroad company. It is a class 3 misdemeanor.
  • Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree: This crime occurs when a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or on any nonresidential structure or in any fenced commercial yard. It is a class 2 misdemeanor.
  • Criminal Trespass in the First Degree: There are a lot of ways to commit this particular offense such as entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a residential structure; entering or remaining unlawfully in a fenced residential yard; entering any residential yard and looking into the residential structure without lawful authority; entering unlawfully on real property that is subject to a valid mineral claim or lease with the intent to hold, work, take or explore for minerals on the claim or lease; entering or remaining unlawfully on the property of another and burning, defacing, mutilating or otherwise desecrating a religious symbol without express permission; and entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a critical public service facility. Typically a class 1 misdemeanor, it can also be charged as a class five or class six felony.

As you can see, the crime of criminal trespass actually involves more than just trespassing. That can be one aspect of the crime but a charge of criminal trespass of the first degree is often about more than just trespassing despite what the name of the crime implies.

What Penalties Do You Face For a Criminal Trespassing Charge?

The penalties you face for a criminal trespassing charge are going to vary depending on the severity of the charge. However, it is worth noting that in many cases the court does not seek to impose the full penalties for these crimes. This isn’t something to bet on, but it may be something you benefit from should you be found or plead guilty.

The penalties for criminal trespassing charges are:

  • Third Degree: As a class 3 misdemeanor it carries a maximum of 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and a year of probation.
  • Second Degree: As a class 2 misdemeanor it carries a maximum of four months in jail, a fine of up to $750, and sometimes probation.
  • First Degree (Class 1 Misdemeanor): Up to six months in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and probation.
  • First Degree (Class 6 Felony): Up to two years in the department of corrections and probation, if there were no prior felony convictions. Close to three years with one prior felony, and nearly six years with two priors.
  • First Degree (Class 5 Felony): Up to two and a half years in the department of corrections and probation, if no prior felony convictions. Nearly four years with one prior and seven and a half years with two prior felony convictions.

What Are Common Defenses Against a Mesa Criminal Trespassing Charge?

The following defenses are common and have worked in previous cases. However, this doesn’t mean that they are right for your case. It’s important to fit the defense to the specifics of the crime.

No Criminal Intent: One of the keywords in the description of criminal trespass is “knowingly.” That is because you should not be found guilty if you were accidentally trespassing and weren’t aware you needed to leave, so a lack of intent is one line of defense.
No Entry: In order to be guilty of trespassing, you had to actually trespass. If you didn’t enter the property in question, then you should be found innocent of the crime.
Permission: Perhaps one person granted you permission but another didn’t know and so had you arrested for criminal trespass. Permission gives you allowance to be there and so proving you had it would beat the charge.
Authorization: If you have authorization to be on the property then you can’t be found guilty of trespassing. Homeowner association landscapers, electric company’s man reading the meter, and the like would be authorized.
No Request to Leave: Some properties you are allowed on until you have been asked to leave, then it is criminal trespassing to remain. But in order for that to be a crime you must have been asked to leave; it is worth noting that it has to be a reasonable request from somebody with the property authorization, another customer in a store can’t have you arrested for criminal trespassing when you ignore their request to leave.
Necessity: Say you were being attacked and ran into a property to hide. This is trespassing but it is only done out of necessity.

Should I Work With an Attorney?

If you’ve been charged then you need to act fast to build a strong defense. Working with a criminal trespassing attorney can greatly improve your chances when compared to defending yourself. Don’t hesitate, get help today.