The Distinction Between Criminal and Civil Trespassing

Most people know what trespassing is, but not everyone knows there are two categories–criminal and civil trespass. It is essential for anyone facing charges to distinguish between the two.

What Is Criminal Trespassing?

The Distinction Between Criminal and Civil TrespassingIn Colorado, criminal trespass can be defined as knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else’s property. This crime is charged in three different degrees, depending on the type of property and the reason for entering or remaining:

  • First-degree criminal trespass: A person who knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in the dwelling or motor vehicle of another with the intent to commit a crime can be charged with first-degree criminal trespass.
  • Second-degree criminal trespass: This crime involves unlawfully entering or remaining on 1) someone else’s premises that have been fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders; 2) common areas of an apartment building, condominium, hotel, motel; or 3) the motor vehicle of another.
  • Third-degree criminal trespass: A person who unlawfully enters or remains in or upon another person’s premises commits third-degree criminal trespass. It is usually charged when the property is not a dwelling and not fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to keep intruders out.

What Is Civil Trespassing?

Civil trespass involves intrusion on the property rights of another, which can give rise to a lawsuit in civil court. The first element is physical intrusion, which does not necessarily mean setting foot on someone else’s property. Civil trespass can occur when someone sets in motion a force that, in the usual course of events, can damage the property of another, such as water pollution. The intrusion must be intentional, but it does not have to be willful. In other words, the act was intentional, but the person who committed it may not have intended to trespass.

What Is the Importance of Intent and State of Mind?

Intent and state of mind are important elements of many crimes. To convict you of first-degree criminal trespass, the prosecution must prove that you unlawfully entered the dwelling or motor vehicle of another with the intent to commit a crime. Without intent, it is not criminal trespass in the first degree. With civil trespass, as well, the act that resulted in intrusion on the premises of another must have been intentional.

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Trespass?

First-degree criminal trespass is usually charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, with penalties that may include up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For trespassing on an occupied or inhabited dwelling, this crime is charged as a Class 6 felony which carries one year to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.

When it involves a motor vehicle, second-degree criminal trespass is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 120 days and/or a fine of up to $750. When it occurs on land Classified as agricultural with intent to commit a felony, it is a Class 4 felony, with penalties that may include two to six years in prison, a fine of $2,000 to $500,000, or both. Otherwise, it is prosecuted as a petty offense, punishable by jail time of up to 10 days and/or a fine of up to $300. The same penalties apply to third-degree criminal trespass.

Have a Proven Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side

For over 25 years, The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. has been dedicated to defending the rights of clients across Colorado. Our elite Colorado Springs team includes investigators, case managers, and support to develop the strongest possible defense. We are committed to providing the responsive and knowledgeable legal assistance you need during this difficult time.

If you are facing criminal trespass charges, you are within your rights to take legal action. We will do everything in our power to help you get the justice you deserve and protect your rights every step of the way.

Call a Colorado Springs trespassing defense lawyer at (719) 475-2555 to schedule a free initial consultation.