Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney Sean Logue would give the following as a definition of criminal trespass: breaking and entering into someone else’s property, staying too long on someone else’s property, or making threats while being on someone else’s property. Pennsylvania’s criminal trespass laws are broad, which sometimes results in a misunderstanding between two people ending in criminal charges.
Criminal Trespass Categories
The type of trespass offense a person is charged with in Pennsylvania depends on what type of trespassing they allegedly did. There are four categories of trespassing in the state:
- Simple Trespassing: When someone stays in a place to do one of the following:
- Start or cause a fire on the property
- Threaten or perform acts, statements, or gestures aimed at the owner of the property
- Vandalize, deface, or damage the property in any manner
- Agricultural Trespassing: When someone enters land used for agricultural purposes that is clearly enclosed/fenced in or marked to keep people out, and/or they don’t leave the property after the owner or someone else in authority tells them to go.
- Defiant Trespassing: When someone remains on a property after being told they should not in one of the following ways:
- Posted signs
- Being verbally notified by anyone on the property
- Fencing or any other enclosure
- Told to leave, in any manner, by school officials, government facility officials, or law enforcement officers.
- Trespassing into a building: When someone knows they are not allowed into a building but break into it or enter it by sneaking into it or deceiving someone into allowing them in, or hiding in the building and remaining there.
Criminal Trespass Consequences
There is a wide variety of consequences a trespasser may face. However, if the crime occurs related to domestic violence, or if the offender has trespassed before, the penalties become harsher. Also, if the offender has a PFA order against them, additional charges can be added to the trespass ones.
Simple trespass convictions can result in fines as high as $300 and jail sentences of up to 90 days.
Defiant trespass convictions vary in their punishments, depending on the grade of misdemeanor. Fines can go as high as $10,000 and prison sentences as long as 5 years.
Trespassing punishments are also dependent upon grade of felony. A conviction can come with fines as high as $25,000 and prison terms as long as 10 years.
Agricultural trespassing has specific penalties written into the law, and they vary depending on the degree of misdemeanor. Fines range from $250 to $5,000, and jail terms can be as long as two years.
Criminal Trespass Examples
Some situations that often lead to criminal trespass charges include: forcing your way into someone’s home, visiting someone without warning them you’re coming, refusing to leave after a person has repeatedly asked you to, and threatening someone while you’re on their property.