Trespassing refers to someone who does not have permission to enter your property entering and/or remaining on the premises. Trespassing is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania that can result in serious penalties. If you have experienced issues with a trespasser, learn your rights and legal options under state law. The city may file criminal charges against the intruder. You could also have the right to file a civil claim if the trespasser caused you any harm.
What is Pennsylvania’s Trespassing Law?
Section 3503 of the Statutes of Pennsylvania state that a person commits a simple trespassing offense if he or she knowingly enters, gains entry by subterfuge, breaks into, or remains in any structure or building. Breaking into a property refers to gaining entry by force or intimidation. Someone is a defiant trespasser if that person commits the offense of trespass when the property owner has given notices against trespassing, such as posting signs, putting up fences, or communicating to the individual to leave the grounds. Property owners and renters have the right to demand someone stays away from the premises. Entering this order is a defiant trespass.
What is defiant trespassing?
Another term that often arises concerning trespassing laws in Pennsylvania is “defiant trespassing.”
Defiant trespass occurs when a person who has no privilege or license to do so, enters or remains in any place where there is a notice against trespassing clearly provided. Defiant trespassing charges can apply when the property owner has given notices against trespassing including:
- posting signs
- putting up fences
- communicating to the individual to leave the grounds
An example of defiant trespass would be entering any grounds surrounded by “do not trespass” signs and refusing to leave when an owner of the property or their agents tell you to leave. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, charges for defiant trespassing can range from summary offenses to misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor charge for defiant trespassing can result in jail time and fines.
Other types of trespassing crimes under Pennsylvania law include agricultural trespass and agricultural biosecurity area trespass. Someone commits the first type of crime if he or she knowingly enters any agriculture or open land that has signs or fencing to exclude trespassers, or if he/she enters after the owner tells the person not to. The second type of trespass occurs when someone enters an agricultural biosecurity area without license or privilege to do so or does so without taking reasonable measures according to the rules of the biosecurity area. Speak to a West Chester criminal defense attorney for a more comprehensive overview of trespassing laws in your particular case.
What are the Penalties for Trespassing in Pennsylvania?
Every land or property owner in Pennsylvania has the legal right to exclude certain parties from his or her premises. An offense that contradicts a landowner’s right to exclude others is a trespass. Trespassing refers to the intentional entry onto someone else’s land, without the landowner’s permission or legal privilege to enter. Trespassing is a serious crime with a range of potential penalties, according to the Statutes of Pennsylvania.
- Misdemeanor or second- or third-degree felony charges depending on the situation
- Expensive fines
- Prison time
- Community service
If someone trespasses to commit an additional crime, such as burglary or physical assault, the trespasser may also have to face civil charges from the victim(s). A victim can file a civil claim against the offender in pursuit of financial damages. The defendant may have to pay the victim back for property damages/losses or personal injury treatment expenses in addition to criminal case restitutions.
Common Defenses Against a Trespassing Claim
During a criminal or civil case against a trespasser in Pennsylvania, the defendant or his or her criminal law attorney may have a few defense arguments available to them. It is a viable defense to prosecution under Pennsylvania law to prove that the building or structure in question was abandoned at the time of the alleged trespass.
If the premises was open to the public and the defendant complied with the conditions of entering the property, this is also a defense to trespassing charges. Finally, if the alleged trespasser had reason to believe that the owner or controller of the premises would have given him/her license to enter or remain on the property, this is a potential defense.
Burglary vs. Criminal Trespassing: What’s the Difference?
Burglary charges can be confusing and are often intertwined with criminal trespassing charges. In reality, these are two different crimes, though they both involve being present on another person’s property.
For a person to be charged with burglary, they must have entered into a building unlawfully with the intention of committing a crime. Typically, burglary charges apply when a person commits theft or intends to commit theft, but they can also apply if someone enters a building with the intention of causing harm to a person inside.
Criminal trespassing charges, however, apply when a person enters another person’s property and remains there without the property owner’s permission. A person does not need to have the intention to commit a crime like theft or violence to be charged with criminal trespassing. However, they must have had the intent to trespass. For these charges to apply, the following should be true:
- Knowingly entered a person’s property without authorization.
- Remained on the property after learning they were not authorized to be there.
- Owner specifically designated the area as off-limits by posting signs, putting fences up, locking a structure, or giving verbal statements.
Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices Today
If you or somebody you know has been charged with trespassing in Pennsylvania, seek legal assistance from a trusted and experienced attorney. At the Ciccarelli Law Offices, you can count on our Pennsylvania burglary attorneys to vigorously defend you against these charges. Our law firm is located in Chester County, but we take cases throughout Pennsylvania. Lee Ciccarelli has represented individuals in criminal defense matters in more than 25 counties.
We work diligently to provide a successful resolution for our clients who have been charged with a crime. One client said that they “Appreciated everyone’s guidance and support at Ciccarelli Law Offices and everyone played a vital role on my behalf. Lee and his office calmed my anxiety and everyone’s professionalism was way beyond what I expected.”
We take cases, and we get results. Our goal is to get the criminal charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether so you can get back to living your life. When you need a burglary attorney in Pennsylvania, you can contact us for a consultation of your case by clicking here or by calling 610-692-8700. We are ready to help you get through this.