What is Criminal Trespass -- and Can You Trespass Accidentally?

What is Criminal Trespass -- and Can You Trespass Accidentally?

What is Criminal Trespass -- and Can You Trespass Accidentally?

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 Criminal Trespass in Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA - Trespassing is a legal term that refers to a wide range of offenses against a person or property. There are civil and criminal trespass laws, but criminal trespass in real estate law occurs when someone has entered onto private property without expressed permission.

What You Need to Know About Criminal Trespass in Philadelphia 

Pennsylvanian state laws describe criminal trespass in a similar way to the rest of the rest of the country. If you enter into a building, occupied structure, or land owned by another individual in a forceful way, you could be charged, even if the place is abandoned, unoccupied, or dilapidated.

You could be charged if you enter into a property you’re not supposed to be in if:

  • You broke in using force or intimidation
  • You lock-picked a locked door 
  • You entered into an unauthorized entrance
  • You remained on the property when you were asked to leave
  • You entered a property with a clearly marked “do not enter” sign
  • You threatened the owner on the premises
  • You entered the property for the purpose of starting a fire
  • You trespassed to deface or damage the premise

Trespassing in and of itself will not count as a criminal offense. You typically have to perform another illegal act to be charged with a misdemeanor, felony, or an applicable summary offense

Consulting an Experienced Criminal Lawyer if You're Charged 

If you’re charged with trespass, refer to the right criminal attorney. There are two defenses you can provide for a criminal trespass charge, but they rely on ignorance. You could say that you thought the premise was open to the public or that the owner gave you permission to enter.

A lawyer could also say the premises looked abandoned, but keep in mind that abandoned properties could house homeless residents. In Pennsylvania, a squatter has to have occupied the residence for at least 21 years to make this claim, so the odds are likely in your favor.

The most important thing an attorney can do is conduct your defense in court while sticking to the laws of your state, city, and jurisdiction. This protection is valuable against the accuser.

What to Know About Accidental Trespass in Philadelphia 

If you claim you didn’t know you were trespassing, does that mean you can trespass accidentally in Philadelphia?

Yes, as civil or criminal trespass requires some level of intent.

Defining Intent and Knowledge 

The trespasser can’t accidentally cross another person’s land and expect legal repercussions. In fact, most accidental trespass cases are resolved once the owner sees the trespasser on their land and asks them to leave. If they do leave, the property owner can’t seek legal remittance.

If the land is open, the property doesn’t contain any signs, or someone doesn’t explicitly tell the trespasser they have to leave, then the trespasser couldn’t have known they trespassed. 

Express Consent vs. Implied Consent 

If you’re charged with trespass, the court will try to find evidence of expressed or implied consent. Expressed consent is found if the landowner stated that the property was off limits, either verbally or in writing. Expressed consent can be taken away in the same manner.

Implied consent occurs if the landowner was unavailable to give consent, but consent was deemed given and necessary to save a person's life or to prevent a severe injury.

Current Landowner Liability Laws

There are limited protections for trespassers if they get injured while trespassing. However, if a trespasser was injured by the landowner while they were trespassing, then the landowner would be charged. This is true if the landowner booby-trapped their premises to prevent trespassers.

If landowners want to deter trespassers, they can set up visible signs or cameras. If people keep trespassing, gate your premise off or call your local authorities. 

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