Someone who is caught trespassing on another person’s property could be facing some pretty serious criminal charges. While many instances of trespassing are resolved without significant legal action, there are some situations where trespassers face severe ramifications. If you’ve been charged with trespassing, it’s important to know what the law entails. For more details about dealing with trespassing charges, don’t hesitate to contact Albo & Oblon, LLP today.
Definition of Trespassing
To prove the crime of trespassing, a prosecutor must prove that (1) the defendant went on the land of another, (2) did so willingly, and (3) had been forbidden to do so by the owner or person in charge or by a sign.
These three elements are essential in a trespassing case; if one element is missing, the charges likely won’t result in a conviction. For example, a hiker who accidentally wandered onto another person’s private property likely wouldn’t be held guilty, unless the property owner informed the hiker that he/she was trespassing and the hiker refused to leave the premises.
As stated above, it’s also imperative for property owners to warn others that they are not allowed onto the premises. This is commonly done by posting several signs at the edge of the property line. Several states allow other ways for property owners to provide notice that a property is off-limits to visitors; these typically include fences around properties or locks on doors and windows.
There are several actions that may exacerbate a trespassing charge. Hunting on someone’s land without permission or cutting down trees without permission are two examples of actions that may automatically warrant a criminal trespassing charge.
Trespassing on Public Land
Individuals may also be charged with trespassing on public properties in certain circumstances. Many public parks and public pools, for example, have signs posted that state specific times when the premises are open to visitors. Failure to heed these signs may be a criminal offense.
Penalties for Trespassing
Unless the defendant committed another serious criminal act while trespassing, the act of trespassing is usually a minor infraction. Each state has its own legislation pertaining to trespassing, however, and it’s important to stay mindful that each state sets its own penalties for convictions.
In Virginia, the punishment for trespassing is a Class 1 misdemeanor and maximum punishment is up to 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
In many cases, the penalties for trespassing on private property are higher than trespassing on public property — especially trespassing into someone’s home or place of residence.
Defendants who have been charged with trespassing may hire a Fairfax trespassing lawyer for legal counsel and representation. The most common defense is proof that a person was told not to be on another’s land. It is not enough that one is simply on another’s property without permission. In some cases, it’s possible to lower the charges or lessen the penalties of a conviction.
Contact a Lawyer
Trespassing, like all criminal offenses, is not something to take lightly. Because trespassing is a criminal act, the typical trespassing case against a defendant is held in criminal court. However, a property owner may also have the right to sue a trespasser in civil court for damages, too. A civil suit may be viable if the trespasser was responsible for property damage or injured someone who was legally allowed to be on the property.
At our firm, we know that many trespassing charges can be overturned or mitigated by circumstantial evidence. If you’ve been charged with trespassing, contact a skilled trespassing lawyer in Fairfax VA today by calling Albo & Oblon, LLP at (703) 455-0046.