A criminal trespass charge takes on a whole new dimension when domestic violence is involved. Criminal trespass can involve making threats while on someone else’s property, breaking into and entering someone else’s home, or even just remaining too long on property that is not yours. Often, though, criminal charges come out of misunderstandings between two people or groups of people. This is because Pennsylvania’s criminal trespass laws are broad.Four Categories of Criminal Trespass in Pennsylvania
- Trespassing into a building—this charge occurs when a person knows they are not permitted to do one of the following but do it anyway:
- Breaks into any occupied structure or other building. This is a second-degree felony.
- Openly enters, enters by using trickery, or secretly remains in an occupied structure or other building. This is a third-degree felony.
- Defiantly trespassing—a person is considered a defiant trespasser if he or she stays on a property or in a building after they have been told to stay away or leave in one of the following ways:
- Posted signs. This is a third-degree misdemeanor.
- Verbal notification that comes from anyone on the property. This is a third-degree misdemeanor.
- Fencing or any other enclosures. This is a third-degree misdemeanor.
- Being told to leave by a school official, law enforcement officer, or government facility official. This is considered a first-degree misdemeanor.
- Simple trespassing—a person is considered a simple trespasser if he or she remains on a property for any of the following reasons:
- Starting or causing to start a fire on the property. This is treated as a summary offense.
- Making terrorizing or threatening gestures or statements toward the property’s owner, or to act in a threatening or terrorizing manner toward him or her. This is treated as a summary offense.
- Damaging, defacing, or vandalizing the property in any other way. This is treated as a summary offense.
- Agricultural Trespass—a person is considered to be an agricultural trespasser when one of the following things happens:
- The person remains on a property that is agricultural land after being told to leave by the property owners or other people in authority. This is a second-degree misdemeanor.
- When the agricultural land is clearly enclosed or marked in such a way as to prevent people from entering. This is a third-degree misdemeanor.
With the wide range of types of criminal trespass comes a wide range of penalties. These penalties are increased in cases of repeat offenses or if they are related to a domestic violence case or if the person has a PFA order against them.
Third-degree felony charges for trespassing carry jail sentences of up to 7 years and fines of up to $15,000. Second-degree felony charges come with jail sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to $25,000.
For defiant trespassers, a first-degree misdemeanor charge comes with up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Third-degree misdemeanors mean jail time of up to 1 year and fines of up to $2,000.
Simple trespass is a summary offense and carries a jail term of up to 90 days and fines of up to $300.
Agricultural trespass has its own specific punishments:
- No more than a year in prison and a fine of at least $250 for the third-degree misdemeanor.
- No more than 2 years in jail and a fine of between $500 and $5,000 for the second-degree misdemeanor.
Situations that commonly lead to criminal trespass charges include:
- Visiting a person without announcing you were coming
- Forcing your way into someone’s home
- Refusing to leave after being asked to
- Threatening a person while on that person’s property
It can be difficult to defend against these charges. It’s even more complicated when domestic violence is involved, or if the person charged has violated a PFA order. Often, the charges a person faces are based on a person’s intent to trespass or cause harm. The prosecutor in the case is required to prove that the defendant intended to cause a disturbance or other problem.Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney
Criminal trespassing charges will make your life complicated. Custody or divorce disputes can make them even more so. A criminal defense attorney with experience in these types of cases will be able to analyze the facts of the case and find ways to get the charges lessened or dismissed.
If you have been arrested for criminal trespass, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Logue Criminal Defense team has experience with criminal trespass and domestic violence cases. Logue Law serves Pittsburg, West Virginia, and Ohio. Call today for a free initial consultation: 1-844-PITT-DUI or 412-389-0805. Or, you may contact us online.