Trespassing can occur in a variety of locations, from land to buildings to even cars, boats, and planes. The criminal penalty is usually a misdemeanor unless an aggravating factor is involved. But with the potential for jail time or substantial fines, it is important to have a qualified criminal defense attorney review your case if you are faced with criminal trespassing charges.
Attorney Ron D. Herman is a former prosecutor with the experience to carefully investigate the facts of your case and make the law work to your advantage. With Mr. Herman’s leadership and experience, Herman Law will work tirelessly to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your trespassing case.
Criminal trespass can occur in a variety of places and types of locations. The most obvious is trespass to property, meaning unenclosed land or real estate. However, Florida law also allows for prosecution of trespass to a structure, trespass to a conveyance–defined as a vehicle, ship, boat, railroad car, or plane, and trespass to a school.
Trespass to Property
Trespass to property occurs when a person willfully enters or remains on property without the right to be there, either because he or she was uninvited, was told to leave, or was put on notice by a posted sign or fencing.
Trespass to property is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, up to six months of probation, and/or up-to $1,000 in fines.
Trespass to a Structure or Conveyance
Trespass to a structure or conveyance occurs when a person willfully enters a structure or building or conveyance (vehicle, ship, boat, railroad car, or plane) without permission or refuses to leave after being asked to do so.
Trespass to a structure or conveyance is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in prison, up to six months of probation, and/or up to $500 in fines.
Trespass to a School
Trespass to a school occurs when a person enters a school property without legitimate business on the campus or remains on the property after being told to leave or is a student currently under suspension or expulsion.
Trespass to a school is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, up to six months of probation, and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Committing trespass to trespass to property, a structure, a conveyance, or a school are all misdemeanors that can be increased to felonies if any of the following factors are present:
- The trespasser is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon.
- The property trespassed on is a construction site.
- The property trespassed on is a horticultural or agricultural property used for testing or research.
- The property trespassed on is a domestic violence center.
- The purpose of the trespass was to hunt an endangered animal.
- The property trespassed on is an airport or a runway.
The existence of any of these factors increases the crime of trespass from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years probation, and/or $5,000 in fines.
Removing “No Trespassing” Postings
It is also illegal to remove or damage any postings or signs that place the public on notice of private property. Removing or damaging a “no trespassing” posting is itself a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, up to six months of probation, and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Defenses to Trespassing
There are multiple defenses a defendant may raise if charged with trespass. The most common defense is that of conflicting permission or consent. This commonly arises when there are multiple owners to the property and one owner authorizes entry while another does not.
You may also have a defense if you were on the property during the hours when the property is typically open to the public. In such cases, the property owner has implicitly consented to your presence.
If the charge is based on the posting of no trespassing signs, another defense is improper posting, or signs that do not comply with Florida law, which requires posting to be placed on the boundaries of a property, to include the name and address of the owner, and contain the words “no trespassing” in at least two-inch letters.
Finally, the crime of trespass requires showing the defendant intended to unlawfully trespass on the property. As such, if a person can show he or she thought entry on the property was permissible, the element of intent is not met.
Additional Crimes Related to Trespassing
In additional to trespassing, it is also illegal to place signs or billboards on private land adjacent to highways or roadways without the owner’s permission; damage or tear down a fence; vandalize a cave; or invade a reasonable expectation of privacy on private land.
Property Owner’s Rights
Property owners may hold trespassers accountable both civilly and criminally. If a trespasser has caused any damage to the property trespassed on, the property owner can sue for monetary damages in civil court. The property owner can also press criminal charges against a trespasser and may be entitled to criminal restitution payments.
In addition to legal remedies, a property owner may take the law into his or her own hands under certain circumstances. In the situation where a trespasser enters a building or conveyance (vehicle, ship, boat, railroad car, or plane) and is armed with a firearm or dangerous weapon, a property owner may take the trespasser into custody and detain the trespasser for a reasonable time. The property owner must call law enforcement as soon as possible but will not be legally liable for false arrest, false imprisonment, or unlawful detention if the owner complies with Florida statute 810.08(1)(c).
Property Owner Not Liable for Injury – Agricultural Land
A property owner of agricultural land is not liable for negligence leading to the death or injury of a person who has committed criminal trespass.
Contact Our West Palm Beach Trespassing Attorney
If you are facing criminal or civil prosecution for trespassing, contact Herman Law. Attorney Ron Herman will make sure your case receives top priority and will ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process.