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What are the penalties for trespassing on private property?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 07:09 pm

Penalties for Trespassing on Private Property in Indiana

Trespassing on private property is taken very seriously in Indiana. The state has specific laws in place to protect private property rights and safeguard land and buildings from unwanted entry and damage[1]. Understanding what constitutes trespassing, the penalties involved, and defenses that may apply is crucial for Indiana residents. This article provides an in-depth look at trespassing laws, penalties, and liability in the Hoosier State.

What is Trespassing in Indiana?

Trespassing occurs when a person knowingly and intentionally enters someone else’s private property without permission or legal right[1]. The key elements of criminal trespass under Indiana law are outlined in the state’s criminal code[5].

There are two main types of trespassing in Indiana:

  • Criminal Trespass – This happens when a person enters private property intending to commit a crime, or refuses to leave when asked. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines[1].
  • Civil Trespass – This occurs when someone enters private property without permission but with no intent to commit a crime[1]. The property owner can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages.

Some exceptions exist, like police officers entering property legally while on duty[1]. Public property also has different rules for access.

What Are the Penalties for Trespassing in Indiana?

The specific penalties for trespassing depend on the circumstances[1]:

  • Criminal Trespass
    • Class A Misdemeanor – Trespassing on school or agricultural property. Up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
    • Class B Misdemeanor – All other criminal trespass. Up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Civil Trespass – The property owner can sue for damages caused by the trespasser.

Other consequences may also apply, like probation, community service, restitution, or a criminal record[1].

When Can a Property Owner Be Liable for a Trespasser’s Injuries?

Generally, Indiana law requires property owners to use reasonable care to ensure safety for lawful visitors[1]. But there are situations where a property owner may be liable for injuries to a trespasser[1]:

  • The owner knew or should have known trespassers were likely to enter.
  • The owner failed to warn of known dangers on the property.
  • The owner intentionally or recklessly caused injury.

If trespassers seem likely, owners should take steps to secure their property and prevent harm[1].

How Does Liability Differ for Child Trespassers?

Indiana follows the “attractive nuisance” doctrine, meaning property owners can be liable for injuries to trespassing children in certain cases[3].

If a hazardous object or condition on their property attracts and injures a child trespasser, the property owner may be liable even if the child wasn’t permitted to be there[3]. Examples include pools, trampolines, or construction equipment.

To limit liability, owners should eliminate dangers posed by attractive nuisances whenever possible[4]. Fences, locks, barriers, and warning signs also help deter child trespassers.

What About Defenses to Trespassing Charges?

For criminal trespassing, the prosecutor must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt[6]. A defense attorney will seek to raise doubt in the prosecution’s case. Potential defenses include[6]:

  • You had permission to enter the property – Consent from the owner or authority to be there is a complete defense.
  • You made an innocent mistake – If you accidentally entered the wrong property, that could negate intent.
  • You have a lawful right to the property – Easements, leases, shared ownership, or other rights may allow entry.
  • Police lacked reasonable suspicion of a crime – Evidence obtained during an improper search may be excluded[5].
  • The “No Trespassing” signs were unclear – Signs must be conspicuously posted per Indiana law[5].
  • You were unlawfully discriminated against – Bias over race, religion, or disability could invalidate a trespass charge.

What About Trespassing and Domestic Violence?

In Indiana, criminal trespass involving a spouse, partner, family member, or other household member may be charged as domestic violence[6].

This can happen if an estranged partner or ex-spouse enters property without consent from the protected party. Violating a restraining order also qualifies.

Domestic violence trespass is a serious accusation carrying harsh penalties. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue your side of the story and protect your rights.

Final Thoughts

  • Trespassing laws in Indiana aim to protect private property rights and prevent unwanted entry.
  • Criminal penalties for trespassing depend on the circumstances, ranging from fines to jail time.
  • Property owners must take reasonable precautions to deter trespassers and prevent injuries. Their liability is higher for child trespassers.
  • Various defenses may apply in fighting trespassing charges, from mistaken entry to discrimination.
  • Domestic violence charges are possible when trespassing involves a partner, family member, or household member.

Understanding trespassing laws in Indiana is important to avoid running afoul of the law. If charged with criminal trespass, be sure to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney can advise you on the best defense strategies and work to achieve the most favorable outcome in your case.


[1] https://www.oflaherty-law.com/learn-about-law/what-are-trespassing-laws-in-indiana

[2] https://www.findlaw.com/state/indiana-law/indiana-criminal-trespass-laws.html

[3] https://banksbrower.com/criminal/property-crimes-attorney/trespassing-lawyer/

[4] https://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/files/trespassingandliability.pdf

[5] https://law.justia.com/codes/indiana/2022/title-35/article-43/chapter-2/section-35-43-2-2/

[6] https://www.criminaldefenseteam.com/criminal-trespassing/

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