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Criminal trespassing penalties

Criminal trespass is the act of entering a property not owned by you without the permission of the owner. It can be as simple as walking into a house unannounced, or as serious as entering a home or business to commit a robbery, vandalism or other crimes. Penalties depend on the jurisdiction where the crime was committed (federal, state, local) but in general, criminal trespassing is prosecuted in most jurisdictions as a misdemeanour or a low-grade felony.


Generally speaking, a person commits first-degree criminal trespass when he knowingly enters and/or remains on a property or in a building knowing he is not licensed or given permission to be there by the owner or a representative. A person also commits first-degree trespass if he enters a residence or building in violation of a restraining or protective order issued by a court. The penalty for a first-time offender in many local jurisdictions is up to one year in prison and a fine, but can vary depending on where the crime occurred.

Second Degree

A person can be charged with a second-degree criminal trespass when he/she enters or remains in a home or building or property knowing he/she is not licensed or allowed to be there. If convicted the penalty can be in many jurisdictions up to six months in prison and a £650 fine, or both.

Third Degree

A person who enters a property knowing he/she is not licensed or allowed to be there or enters an area that is posted or fenced in to keep out intruders can be convicted of third-degree criminal trespassing. The penalty in many jurisdictions is up to three months in prison, a £325 fine, or both.

Simple Trespass

A person who knowingly enters a private property but does not show any intent to harm the property or individuals can be charged with simple trespassing. The penalty in most jurisdictions is usually a summons, which does not appear on your criminal record.

Filing Charges

Most local police departments and law enforcement agencies consider trespassing a nuisance offence and rarely prosecute. Only when an individual violates the law more than once will police generally take action. That is not the case when an individual trespasses on property during the commission of a crime, where offender is nearly often charged with trespassing in addition to other, usually more serious charges.