We’ve all seen those inhospitable “no trespassing” signs dozens of times. Yet have you ever wondered what happens to someone who chooses to disobey the “no trespassing” warning? The fact is no trespassing laws vary from state to state. While some states can enforce violating one of these signs, other states can’t. If states do allow prosecution, the crime that is committed is known as “criminal trespass” in court. This is the offense of being on someone’s private land when you are not authorized to do so. Interestingly enough, in a lot of states you can be charged with criminal trespassing whether or not you have a sign commanding you to stay away. A person’s “curtilage” is their house, yard, and any property immediately surrounding it. If you step onto that person’s land and the location is occupied, then you can be prosecuted. This law isn’t usually enacted unless the trespasser was offensive or harmful to the people in the home because of his or her actions.
If you want to add a “no trespassing” sign to your land and have legal backing, then you will want to contact the authorities. You will probably need to ask for information about how and where to post your sign. Each jurisdiction has different opinions on what sorts of signs should be used and why. In Montana, for example, the signs must be large and tacked to a post, structure, or other natural object with no less than 50 square inches of orange, fluorescent paint. This way, there is less of a possibility that an offender will argue he or she did not see the sign. In Vermont, signs must be at least 11.5 inches wide and 8 inches high with lettering and background of contrasting colors. If the sign doesn’t follow these measurements, it can’t be federally enforced.
States also have particular rules about where the signs can be posted. In California, the signs must be placed at three per mile and all along exterior boundaries as well as at any roads or trails that enter into the land. In Vermont, the landowner needs to record a posting form each year in the town land records so that the sign will be considered valid. Those who post signs in this state must place them at every corner of the property and not over 400 feet apart, so that people won’t wander into the property unaware because they didn’t see the sign. If you have been charged with a trespassing crime, then you will want to explore the many different defenses that you can take.
In addition to making sure that the prosecution’s trespassing signs abide by the rules, you can argue that your trespassing was “non-volitional.” This means that you tripped and fell onto your neighbor’s land, or somehow unintentionally entered the area. If you wandered into a no trespassing area, then you can still be charged whether or not you knew that the area was forbidden. Yet you may be able to develop a defense saying that there was not a sign posted near you. This may have violated state sign laws, which would make the prosecution’s case invalid. Also, if you entered land on an express or implied invitation, you cannot be prosecuted. This means that if you were delivering pizza to a “no trespassing area” or delivering a package, the owner of the property cannot press charges against you.
Depending on what state you reside in, there is a possibility that you could be sent to jail for a trespassing charge. In California, misdemeanor trespassing is punishable by six months in the county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If you are charged with an infraction, then you will probably be given a ticket for your actions. The most serious trespassing offense is an aggravated trespass which carries a felony charge. This occurs when the trespasser threatens to harm, a person on the property. If the trespasser returns to his crime scene again within 30 days of his first offense and threatens the property owner again, then he or she can be charged with a felony. If you have been charged with a trespassing offense, it’s important that you talk to a criminal defense lawyer right away. You will want someone there to help you through your charges and work with you to provide the best defense. With trespassing charges, there is a lot of loopholes that you can explore to eliminate your sentence. Get in contact with a criminal defense attorney today!