Criminal Trespass: Understanding the Basics

In Florida, it is a crime to trespass upon another’s property.  Trespass may seem like a minor violation, but depending on the circumstances and the nature of the violation, the criminal trespass violation may be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony and expose you to substantial criminal penalties that include incarceration and fines.

What Is Criminal Trespass?

Criminal trespass is governed by section 810 of the Florida Statutes.  A defendant will be found criminally liable for trespass if the prosecution can show that the defendant, without being authorized, licensed, or invited, willfully entered or remained on property, when notice against entering or remaining was given (i.e. in the form of a verbal warning, or a signpost).

There are two primary forms of criminal trespass in Florida: criminal trespass on property and criminal trespass in a structure or conveyance.  These forms of criminal trespass have different penalties.

Property 

Criminal trespass on property (not a structure or conveyance) is generally associated with land, but applies to any property aside from a structure — such as a building — or a form of conveyance, such as an automobile or train.

Criminal trespass on property is a first-degree misdemeanor.  As such, you could be exposed to penalties that include up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and a $1,000 fine.

Structure or Conveyance

Criminal trespass in a structure or conveyance occurs when you willfully enter without authorization, license, or invitation, into another’s building or vehicle, and despite a warning, refuse to leave.

Criminal trespass in a structure or conveyance is a second-degree misdemeanor and could expose you to penalties that include up to two months in jail, six months of probation, and a $500 fine.

Felony Enhancement

In some circumstances, trespassing may be enhanced to a third-degree felony.  These circumstances include:

  • Trespassing with a dangerous weapon.
  • Trespassing onto property that is a construction site.
  • Trespassing onto property that is an agricultural site for testing or research purposes.
  • Trespassing onto property that is designated as a domestic violence center.
  • Trespassing onto property that is an agro-chemical facility.

For example, if you are carrying a dangerous weapon with you when you commit a criminal trespass, then your violation may be enhanced to a third-degree felony and you could be expose to penalties that include up to five years imprisonment, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

There are several defenses that you can raise in a criminal trespass action.

Authorization to Enter or Remain

If you are authorized, licensed, or otherwise invited onto the property at-issue, then you cannot be held liable for criminal trespass unless the consent to enter and remain was subsequently withdrawn.  Further, if the authorization, license, or invitation is withdrawn, then it must be reasonably communicated to you.

Necessity of Entry

Sometimes, trespass is necessary in order to avoid serious injury or death.  For example, if you are being chased by an attacker, you may be able to trespass onto another’s property to evade the attacker.  The trespass would likely be justified and would not be criminally actionable.

Entry Not Willful

If you lacked the intent to commit a trespass, then your entry was not willful, and you cannot be held liable.  For example, if you mistakenly trespass onto your neighbor’s land while under the reasonable impression that you were walking on your own land, then your entry would likely not be deemed willful.

If you’ve been charged with criminal trespass, or if you’re worried that you may be charged with criminal trespass, call (941) 900-3100 speak with experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group today.  During your free initial consultation, our attorneys will assess the issues and help you get you started with your case.  At the Fowler Law Group, we are aggressive defense advocates and are committed to personalized representation of our clients in a range of criminal cases.

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