What Is Trespassing and How Is It Considered a Crime?

In 2018, there were nearly a million instances of trespassing in the United States.

While this number might seem high, it’s important to realize that these figures are specific to building trespassing and don’t even include trespassing on land.

Since trespassing is a relatively common occurrence, it’s a good idea to understand exactly what it is whether or not you’re a property owner.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about trespass and criminal trespass.

What Is Trespassing?

Trespassing means entering a property without the permission of the property owner.

Each state in the U.S. has its own definition for the term trespassing. In general, though, they have the same concept in common. Intentionally remaining on or entering someone else’s property without the authorization to do so is trespassing.

What Is the Difference Between Trespassing and Criminal Trespassing?

In both the cases of civil trespassing and criminal trespassing, an individual is on property that they don’t have permission to be on. In civil trespass, you might not realize that you’re on someone else’s land without permission. In criminal trespass, however, the individual enters or remains in the place with full knowledge that they don’t have permission or license to do so.

The Specifics of Criminal Trespassing

There is more to the concept of trespassing than simply being somewhere you’re not supposed to be. Let’s take a look at the specifics.


You can only commit criminal trespass if you enter a property with the knowledge that you don’t have permission to be there. That or you stay on the property after finding out that you don’t have permission to be there.

This means that if you were to accidentally wander onto someone’s private property while taking a hike, you aren’t committing criminal trespass. If you learned that you were on private property, however, and declined to leave, then you could be committing criminal trespass.

Notice or Warning

State laws regarding trespassing differ. In most states, though, it is required for there to be a warning that you’re not allowed on a certain property in order to be convicted of trespassing.

This might mean posting land with “no trespassing” signs, fencing your property, or locking doors. A property owner can also verbally tell a trespasser that they don’t have permission to be there.

Certain Acts Can Classify as Trespass

Again, depending on the state you live in, there might be different laws outlining certain acts as criminal trespassing.

These can include things like cutting down trees without permission, hunting on someone else’s land without permission, or even tampering with vending machines. Another common form of criminal trespass is entering or staying in a motor vehicle without the permission of the owner.

Is It Possible to Trespass in Public?

It is still possible to be convicted of criminal trespass in a public place. You run the risk of being charged with criminal trespass if you enter or stay in a public place (for example, a park or a store) after it closes. Also, if you are ordered to leave the premises and fail to do so, you can be charged with criminal trespass.

Can You Call the Police for Trespassing?

If you’ve verbally given someone a warning that they are not allowed on your property, it can be good to follow up with a written trespass notice. Having a record in writing of the warning could help you in the future.

Typically, if the person re-enters your property within the next two years after being warned, you have every right to call the police on them.

What Happens If I Get Injured While Trespassing On Someone Else’s Property?

The answer to this question is actually slightly more complicated than you might think.

It’s also important to know that each state deals with this type of situation differently. This means the outcomes can vary between jurisdictions.

Most places follow the traditional common law stance that landowners don’t owe any special duty to trespassers. This doesn’t mean, however, that the landowner doesn’t own any duty at all to trespassers. For example, a landowner typically doesn’t have the right to cause intentional harm to a trespasser that isn’t posing any threat.

Even if a trespasser is “discovered,” which means that the landowner knows of their unlawful presence on the property, a landowner must act with ordinary care. This means they are responsible for protecting the trespasser from reasonable foreseeable harm.

What Happens If I Get Injured When I’m Not Trespassing?

When you’re visiting, living in, or working on someone else’s property, you have the right to a reasonable expectation of safety. This means that if a property hasn’t been properly maintained and that leads to an injury, it’s possible you’re entitled to compensation. This compensation could cover your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.

Have you been injured while visiting someone else’s property? If so, click for more info about why you should hire a premises liability lawyer.

It’s a Good Idea to Know the Trespassing Laws in Your State

Whether you’re a property owner or an avid hiker, it’s a good idea to know what the laws are in your state regarding trespassing. By informing yourself of trespassing laws you can understand both your rights and duties. This is true whether you’re the unintentional trespasser or the landowner whose property is being trespassed upon.

Did you find this article about trespassing informative? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more useful and interesting articles!


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