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How Does Alabama Define and Penalize “Criminal Trespass” Charges?

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What is Trespassing?

If you find someone on your property that shouldn’t be there, they may be trespassing. Trespassing consists of an unauthorized person entering the property without permission.

Trespassing can occur simply as a misunderstanding. For example, if someone thought the property wasn’t private or unaware of where the property lines were.

Trespassing can also occur when individuals intentionally enter property that is not theirs. This type of trespassing can result in charges.

Criminal Trespass in the First Degree

If a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling, they may be charged with criminal trespassing in the first degree. According to Alabama Code 1975 13A-7-2, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant entered or remained unlawfully in a dwelling and did so knowingly.

A premises includes any building and any real property. A building can be any structure that may be entered or used for lodging or storing goods, personal or business use, public use, and more.

Furthermore, in some cases, when an individual has the authority or privilege to enter a section of a building or property through permission or approval and proceeds into another area of the property, this may still qualify as trespassing.

Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree

Suppose a person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon real property that is fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders. In that case, they may be charged with trespassing in the second degree, according to Alabama Code 1975 13A-7-3.

The exact requirements apply that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly entered the property without permission or authorization.

Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree

Like first and second-degree charges, the state will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly entered the property without prior authorization or permission.

A third-degree charge may result in an individual participating in the above events on unfenced or otherwise enclosed property that appears as public land (unused and unimproved).

Fines and Penalties

The penalties for first-degree trespassing can include a fine of up to $6,000 and up to one year in jail. This level of trespassing is categorized as a Class A Misdemeanor.

Penalties for a second-degree trespassing charge can result in up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500, categorized as a Class C Misdemeanor.

For a third-degree trespassing charge, an individual could face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $200.

What Are My Options for Defense Against a Trespassing Charge?

In some cases, you may have entered a property that you thought was available for public use and were misled. In this case, you may be able to provide sufficient evidence that you weren’t knowingly trespassing, which is one of the elements necessary for a conviction.

Suppose you had the owner’s permission, and there was a miscommunication of some sort that led to the trespassing charge. In that case, you may be able to dispute the charges based on expressed permission and the confusion that led to the trespassing.

If there was no adequate posting of private property or warnings to avoid a particular area of land or buildings, you may be able to prevent trespassing charges.

Lack of evidence is always a great defense option. As stated above, two elements must be present to convict an individual of trespassing successfully. If either of those is not sufficiently proven, you may be able to avoid a conviction.

Trespassing Involving School Buses

Another aspect to consider is whether or not school property, such as a school bus, was involved. Trespass charges can occur if an individual intentionally defaces, burns, demolishes, or damages any public school bus.

If a principal or a bus driver tells an individual that they are not allowed on the bus, and they choose to enter anyway, this can also result in trespassing charges.

If someone intentionally delays or stops a school bus with the intent to commit a crime, this can also result in charges.

Any of the above fall under Alabama Code 13A-7-4.2, which refers to Class A misdemeanors and can result in penalties of up to $6,000 or up to a year in jail.

Trespassing Charges: What To Do

Suppose you are charged with trespassing; it is in your best interest to contact a criminal law attorney serving Birmingham immediately to discuss your options. As mentioned above, if the state can’t prove that you knowingly entered the property without permission or authorization and remained there, they may not have a sufficient case against you.

On the contrary, suppose you discovered someone was on your property without permission and would like to pursue charges. An experienced attorney can help you formulate a strategy to ensure a successful outcome.

When working with our law firm, you will discover that we treat each client as an essential individual, not just a number. We are multi-skilled in that we have thorough experience in multiple parts of the law, including family law, criminal defense, and personal injury.

One of our team’s most invaluable skills is our ability to negotiate. If negotiations aren’t something you do daily, they can seem unproductive or simply a waste of time. With our team, you will quickly realize that we are skilled in this arena and will aggressively pursue all options in your best interest.

Contact our capable, compassionate, experienced team at (205) 881-5641 today.

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