Criminal Trespassing

Criminal trespassing in Arizona is considered a serious offense which can result not only in a fine but also jail time. While this might not seem like a serious criminal act, trespassing is not taken lightly and in cases when a person commits such an offense it is best to get in touch with an attorney immediately to minimize the damage.

Trespassers can be penalized with jail time and high fines and in some cases, they might even face civil liability due to the fact that someone’s privacy rights were violated.

Defining Criminal Trespassing

While the laws differ depending on the state in which the offense is committed, generally, the criminal trespassing is defined as entering and/or remaining on someone’s property without their consent.

For an action to be regarded as criminal trespassing, the following needs to be established:

  • Intention to enter someone’s property – If the trespasser entered a property which they knew they are not allowed on, it automatically implies that it is a trespassing act in question. If the person didn’t know that they are not allowed on the property, like for example entering a property by an honest mistake, it is not treated as criminal trespassing. However, if after being made aware that they should not be at the property, the person still chooses to remain there, then the action as regarded as criminal trespassing.
  • Clear warning or notice – for a person to be charged with criminal trespassing, the property that they are entering needs to clearly display a warning. This is done by placing No Trespassing sign, an established fence or a locked door. If the property owner verbally lets the trespasser know that they are not allowed on the property and they still refuse to leave, the act is treated as criminal trespassing.
  • Other forms of trespassing – Acts like cutting down trees or hunting on someone’s property, as well as gaining access and remaining in someone’s vehicle without consent is considered as criminal trespassing.

Classification of Criminal Trespassing

First Degree Trespassing

Depending on the circumstances, first-degree trespassing can be regarded as a felony or misdemeanor.

A trespassing act is regarded as a felony if a person:

  • Unlawfully enters and remains at a residential property
  • Unlawfully enters and remains at a residential property burns, defaces, or manipulates a religious symbol
  • Unlawfully enters and remains at a public service facility

The penalties for criminal trespassing as a felony can go up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $150.000.

A trespassing act is regarded as misdemeanor if a person:

  • Enters a fenced private property
  • Violates the owner’s right to privacy by entering private property and looks into the residential structure
  • Enters a property with mineral claim with the intention to hold or take minerals without permission

The penalties for such misdemeanor can go up to $2.500 in fines and no more than 6 months in jail.

2. Second Degree Trespassing

Trespassing acts of second degree are treated as class two misdemeanor offenses. An act that falls in this category is entering and remaining on a non-residential or commercial property which is fenced.

The penalties for second-degree trespassing acts can go up to 4 months of jail time and fines of up to $750.

3. Third Degree Trespassing

Third-degree trespassing is regarded as a third class misdemeanor. Acts like entering a private or commercial property unlawfully and refusing to leave after being asked to leave by the property owner, are considered a third-degree trespassing offense.

The penalties for such acts go up to 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $500.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Acts of criminal trespassing sometimes happen because a person missed a clear sign of warning and wasn’t even aware that they are committing an offense. In cases when someone is arrested for trespassing, contacting a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately is the best option. While this might be only a misdemeanor, trespassers might also face civil liability since they are entering private property. They also might get a lawsuit from the property owner for unlawfully being at the property, which is why contacting an attorney is the safest option to go for in order to minimize the charges and avoid serious consequences.

Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.