When you knowingly enter another’s property with the intent to cause physical harm or damage, you can be found guilty of criminal trespass. However, when you accidentally enter another’s property, or believe you had permission to enter the grounds, you’ll need a strong legal defense to ensure your rights are protected in court.
What is criminal trespass?
Under Section 3503 of the Statutes of Pennsylvania, a person commits criminal trespass if he or she, knowingly without prior authorization:
- Enters, gains entry by subterfuge, or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof; or
- Breaks into any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof.
It is important to note that “breaks into” means to gain entry by force, breaking, intimidation, unauthorized opening of locks, or through an opening not designed for human access. If found guilty of criminal trespass, he or she may be convicted of a felony of the third or second degree.
Other Forms of Trespass
In addition to criminal trespass, there are other forms of trespassing charges possible. Other forms of trespassing in Pennsylvania include:
- Trespassing in a Building: Knowingly is not privileged to enters, or gains entry, or breaks into any building or occupied structure
- Simple Trespassing: One who remains in any place to make threatening or terrorizing acts, gestures; to set a fire; to deface, damage, or otherwise vandalize the premises
- Agricultural Trespass: Trespassing on agricultural land that is clearly marked; or remaining on the premises of agricultural land after being instructed to leave
Common Trespassing Defenses
During criminal trespass hearings, though difficult, there are potential defenses that can be used. Most commonly, the defense will argue that the building was abandoned at the time of the alleged trespass. In addition, if the premises in question was open to the public, the defendant may allege that he or she complied with the conditions for entering the property.
The final potential defense is that the individual in question reasonably believed that the owner of the premises would have given him permission to remain on the property.
Penalties to a Criminal Trespass Charge
Depending on the severity and terms of your charge, the penalty you may face will differ.
- First-degree misdemeanor: 5 years of jail time, and fines of $10,000
- Third-degree misdemeanors: Up to 1 year of jail time, and fines up to $2,000
- Summary offense: Up to 90 days of jail time, and fines up to $300
- Third-degree felony: Up to 7 years of jail time, and fines up to $15,000
- Second-degree felony: Up to 10 years of jail time, and fines up to $25,000
The terms of your charge will determine your overall penalty.
Criminal Trespass in Pennsylvania
As your advocate, Craig Kalinoski is a criminal defense attorney who is committed to protecting you in and out of court using his knowledge of the community, extensive knowledge of the law, tenacious negotiation skills, and commitment to thorough trial preparation. Our goal is to achieve the best possible situation so you can put your legal concerns behind you and get on with your life.
Work with a firm that is committed to protecting you and your future. Call (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation.