Sunday, October 7, 2012

Trespassing Charges and Penalties

Texas landowners take pride in their property. When people enter or remain on someone else's property or in their building, aircraft or vehicle without effective consent they can be charged with the crime of criminal trespass. Even if someone's intentions were innocent or if they had simply made a mistake, they could still be prosecuted and convicted of a criminal offense.

In order for someone to be convicted of criminal trespass, they must have either been given notice that entry was forbidden, or they must have been told to leave. Notice can be either given in the form of a written letter or it can be verbal. It is also supposed to be given either by the owner or by someone who has the apparent authority to act on behalf of the owner.

Other forms of notice can include fencing or some other kind of enclosure that is obviously in place to keep intruders out of the property. A posted sign warning others to stay off the property would also suffice as appropriate notice. It's important to note that such signs should be placed on the property or the entrance of a building in a place that is conspicuous and likely to catch the attention of intruders stating that entrance to the property is forbidden.

An example of criminal trespass can include the following stories. A group of teenagers decide to "dare" or tell another peer in the group to enter into a building that they know is forbidden. Not knowing that this simple act will get the teen in trouble, he walks into the building and sets off an alarm accidentally. Minutes later, the police arrive and have formally charged this young gentleman with criminal trespass, an offense that can remain on his record for a long period of time.

A woman has pulled off on the side of the road with a flat tire and no one to help. Frantic, she runs to the closest home, opens the gate and walks up to the front door. In the dark of the night, she is unable to see the "No Trespassing" sign and walks onto the property anyways. Before she knows it, she is arrested and charged criminally.

The offense known as criminal trespass can encompass all sorts of public and privately owned property intended for different types of use. People can be convicted of criminal trespass when they unlawfully cross residential property, commercial property, agricultural property, forest land, and even government property. It is also unlawful to trespass in an area with an oil refinery, or a chemical manufacturing facility, as well as a water treatment plant or an electrical power generating facility. The above offenses are classified as misdemeanors in the state of Texas. A person can be charged with a Class A, B, or C misdemeanor depending on the facts surrounding the case. A conviction of criminal trespass can lead to serious legal penalties including jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record.

The Texas Penal Code §30.05 (2011), gives information regarding this specifics of this crime as well as the exact penalties an offender could be facing. Criminal trespass is defined as entering onto the property of another without the owner's permission. A conviction of criminal trespass can only be brought against an individual if there was a notice posted saying that entrance was forbidden or if the property owner had told them to leave, either written or orally, but they refused to do so. As mentioned above, the offense can either be charged as a Class A, B, or C misdemeanor depending on the details of the case. It will be charged as a Class B misdemeanor unless it takes place on agricultural land, in which case it is a Class C misdemeanor. If the individual trespassed on an inhabited property or the individual had a deadly weapon, then it will be a Class A misdemeanor.

Even if the incident seemed minor, a criminal record will hinder your ability to gain employment, leases and financial aid for college; almost anything that requires a background check will become a problem for you in the future. An experienced criminal defense attorney will give you the best opportunity to fight the charges against you. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better your chances of getting the charges reduced or dropped!

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