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Posted on July 16, 2021 in Arizona Law

When is it Considered Criminal Trespass in Arizona?

Criminal trespass is defined as knowingly entering a property owned by another person or unlawfully remaining on another person’s property. You can also be charged with criminal trespass if you fail to leave a property after the owner requests that you leave.

Criminal trespass crimes are divided into three categories. Each degree of criminal trespass is defined in the Arizona Revised Statutes. The specific charge you face depends on the type of property you enter and your conduct while on the property.

Criminal Trespass in the First Degree

Arizona Revised Statute §13-504 defines criminal trespass in the first degree as knowingly entering or unlawfully remaining in or on a residential structure or fenced residential yard.

You may also be charged with first degree criminal trespass if you enter a residential yard without authority and look into residential structures in reckless disregard for the resident’s right to privacy. Entering property that is subject to a valid mineral claim with the intent to explore, take, work, or hold minerals is also considered first degree criminal trespass.

Burning, mutilating, defacing, or otherwise desecrating a religious symbol or religious property without permission is also covered under this section. In addition, remaining or unlawfully entering a public service facility is also first degree criminal trespass.

You could face a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge for criminal trespass in the first degree.

Misdemeanor penalties include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,5000. Felony penalties include up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $150,000.

Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree

Second degree criminal trespass is defined in Arizona Revised Statute §13-503. Under this section, a person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if they enter or remain in a fenced commercial yard or nonresidential building.

The offense is a class 2 misdemeanor. It carries a jail term of up to four months and a fine of up to $750.

Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree

Arizona Revised Statute §13-1502 defines third degree criminal trespass as remaining or entering real property after the owner or another person with lawful control asks you to leave.

Under this section, it is also illegal to enter or remain on the right-of-way for storage, tracks, rolling stock, or switching yards for a railroad company.

Third degree criminal trespass is a class 3 misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Knowingly Entering and Unlawfully Remaining on Property

The state must prove that you knowingly entered or unlawfully remained on the property for you to be guilty of criminal trespass. All of the statutes include specific language regarding these requirements.

Therefore, a defense to criminal trespass in Arizona is that you did not know you were trespassing. However, alleging that you did not know you were trespassing can be a tricky defense.

For example, most people know they are trespassing if they enter a property through a fence or gate. Likewise, most people would assume they were trespassing if they entered a commercial property or a railroad yard without permission.

However, if you were lost or it was nighttime, the defense might hold up. Moreover, your lawyer could help you explore other viable defenses.

What Should You Do if You Are Charged with Criminal Trespass in Arizona?

Seeking legal advice from a criminal defense attorney is an excellent step to take. A lawyer explains the criminal charges to you and reviews your options for defending yourself.

You should not admit that you were trespassing or answer questions from the police. Talking to the police without legal counsel could make matters worse.

You have the right to legal counsel, but you also have the right to represent yourself in a criminal case. Before you decide to represent yourself, you might want to keep in mind the penalties we discussed above.

If you are charged with felony criminal trespass, you could serve several years in jail and pay a fine of up to $150,000. Even if you are charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass, you could pay a hefty fine and serve up to six months in jail.

In addition, you would have a criminal record that will follow you around for the rest of your life. If your child is charged with criminal trespass, a criminal record could impact their college and career choices.

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