Trespass is when one unlawfully and knowingly enters or remains in another person’s property without their consent. It is good to note that trespass is not limited to land; it also applies to other property such as home, office, and motor vehicles.
For you to be found guilty of trespass, the prosecutor must prove one following.
Furthermore, the plaintiff must prove that you knew you were not allowed to enter the property. In some states, one cannot be convicted of trespass for entering property that seems abandoned, unimproved, or unused. Property owners should, therefore, make an effort to notify the public that entering their property is not allowed. For example, owners should fence their land and post warning signs.
Trespass is usually treated as a criminal misdemeanor. The penalty for this is a fine or a jail term of up to one year. Furthermore, If the plaintiff suffered monetary damages due to the trespass, they can recover damages from the trespasser. If other crimes were committed as a result of the trespass, the penalties given will be harsh.
The penalties for trespass vary from state to state. In some states, the type of property trespassed determines the punishment imposed. For example, the penalty for trespassing on a school might be higher than that of trespassing on a piece of land in rural areas. Furthermore, if you trespass dangerous property such as mines and construction sites, felony charges can be pressed against you.
When you are charged with trespass, the following are some of the points you can use to defend yourself.
There was consent: If you prove that the owner gave you consent to enter their property, either through words or actions, you will be acquitted. Keep in mind that consent cannot be given by a minor or someone of unsound mind. Furthermore, permission acquired through fraud will not be accepted.
private necessity: You can argue that you had entered the other person’s property to protect your interests. This is mainly applicable in cases where failure to enter the property would have exposed you to bodily harm or even death. Furthermore, you can argue that you entered the property to defend the owner’s interests such as protecting the property from destruction.
Public necessity: You can convince the court that you entered another person’s property without their consent to protect public interests. For example, you could have entered the property to remove something that has the potential of harming the community.
To reclaim your property: You can demonstrate that you entered another person’s property to recover something that belongs to you. In this defense, you should prove that your property was in the other person’s property due to their fault or natural occurrences such as floods.
Though it must be proved the defendant entered another person property without consent, it is good to note that judges may not accept a defendant’s claim that they didn’t know the property belonged to the plaintiff as a valid argument.
Trespass is not a grave offense. It is, therefore, common to find prosecutors offering a plea bargain to the defendant. Here, the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence. A plea bargain may be suitable in circumstances where a conviction is inevitable, but it presents some risks. It is imperative to consult an attorney before taking a plea bargain.
Though the penalties for trespass look lenient, a conviction can lock you out of various opportunities such as jobs. If you are charged with trespass, you have a right to legal representation. Besides representing you in court, a criminal defense attorney will protect your constitutional rights and advise you on how to approach the case.
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