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Trespass

Trespass is a crime defined by Florida Statute Chapter 810 as the unauthorized and willful entrance or remainder in any structure or conveyance (Fl. Stat. 810.08) or other property (Fl. Stat. 810.09). Trespass includes entering someone’s home or car, or remaining in someone’s home or car after being told to leave. Trespass can additionally include entering fenced property, construction zones, or the exterior (curtilage) of a home. Depending on the circumstances and location of the trespass, the crime can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony.

What is Trespass?

Trespass is not an accidental crime. In order for someone to be convicted of trespass, the state must prove that the person willfully entered or remained in any structure (any type of building with a roof over it) or conveyance (any motor vehicle, ship, trailer, aircraft, etc.). Similarly, a person can trespass by willfully remaining on other property that is not a structure or conveyance, such as a fenced piece of land. Notice that for both forms of trespass, the state must prove that the action was done willfully.

Willfully means “intentionally, knowingly, and purposely” [Florida Jury Instructions §810.08 and §810.09]. The inclusion of the word “willfully” means that it is not enough for the State to prove that you were on a piece of property or in a structure without authorization. In addition to this, they must prove that you had some sort of intent, knowledge, and purpose when you entered or refused to leave the property. However, be warned that knowledge does not necessarily mean direct knowledge. The law typically holds a standard of “known or should have known” to prove knowledge. “Should have known” is similar to having the common sense to figure out that an action is illegal. For instance, if a “No Trespassing” sign is posted, but you failed to read the sign before entering the property, this does not exempt you a trespass charge. If the sign is visible and the font is legible, even if you do not read the sign, you should have known that the sign was important to read before proceeding onto the property. However, if the sign is obstructed by branches or other vegetation, or knocked down, you have a valid defense for trespassing because the State will have difficulty proving the “willful” element.

The Circumstances Matter

Like many other charges, trespass has various degrees – or level of severity – of the crime. Degrees are determined by the circumstances and location of the offense.

  • Second Degree Misdemeanor – When the trespass is in a structure or conveyance [s. 810.08(2)(a)]. Punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months probation, and a fine of $500.

  • First Degree Misdemeanor – When the trespass is in a structure or conveyance and a human being is in the structure or conveyance at the time of trespass [s. 810.08(2)(b)]; or trespass on any other property that is not a structure or conveyance [s. 810.09(2)(a)]; or defying an order to leave, willfully opening any door, fence, or gate, or unlawfully dumping litter on property [s. 820.09(2)(b)]. Punishable by up to 12 months in jail, 12 months probation, and a fine of $1,000.

  • Third Degree Felony – When the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon [s. 810.08(2)(c)]; or when the trespass occurs on a construction site [s. 810.09(2)(d)], commercial horticulture property [s. 810.09(2)(e)], agriculture site for testing or research purposes [s. 810.09(2)(f)], domestic violence center [810.09(2)(g)], or agricultural chemicals manufacturing facility [s. 810.09(2)(i)]. Trespass is also considered a felony when the offender is taking or attempting to take, or harming or attempting to harm, an animal [s. 810.09(2)(h)]. Punishable by up to 5 years in jail, 5 years probation, and a fine of $5,000.

The Thompson Law Approach

While the State has the burden of proving that you committed trespass beyond every reasonable doubt, hiring Matt Thompson will make all efforts to defend you and prevent the State from reaching its burden. The duty of any defense attorney is to ensure that the State does not use evidence against you that is illogical, circumstantial, or misleads the court. If that evidence does make it into court, you want an attorney who can argue the flaws of each piece of the State’s evidence to a judge or jury, weakening their argument, and ultimately, preventing the State from meeting its difficult burden of proof. While not every criminal case will go to trial, Matt Thompson prepares each case as though it will.

This means that Thompson Law will be working with you every step of the way during the life of your case. Our firm begins by speaking directly to you. We listen to your description of the incident so that your attorney can assess the approach that is going to put you in the best position in light of your individual circumstances. Not every trespass case is the same, so an approach that worked for one client’s case may not work for yours. This is why we emphasize direct and candid communication with each and every one of our clients. With over 10 years of criminal legal experience in Volusia County, Matt Thompson knows that being accused of a crime is a difficult and confusing time in your life, and he offers the knowledge, honesty, and compassion necessary to work through your case.

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