Most people think that if someone steps onto their property without permission, they have committed trespassing. However, this isn’t always the case. It depends on the circumstances and what the trespasser does while on the property.
There are three types of trespass:
-Entry onto land
-Entry into a dwelling
-Criminal damage to property
The penalty for trespassing varies depending on the type of trespass but can be as serious as a prison sentence.
What is Trespassing?
Trespassing is defined as the Act of knowingly and intentionally entering or remaining on another person’s property without their permission. In some states, it is also considered trespassing if you enter or remain on someone’s property after asking to leave.
Trespassing can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Generally, trespassing is a misdemeanor if there is no damage to the property and a felony if there is damage to the property or if the trespasser is armed.
If you catch someone trespassing on your property, you should always call the police. Do not try to handle the situation yourself, as it could escalate and lead to violence.
The police will likely ask you for a description of the trespasser and any other relevant information, such as whether they were armed or what they were doing on your property. They will also likely want to know if you have had any previous problems with this individual.
If the police catch the trespasser, they will likely issue them a citation or arrest them, depending on the severity of the offense. The trespasser will then have to appear in court, where they will be charged with trespassing.
If convicted, the penalties for trespassing can range from a simple fine to several years in prison, depending on the state laws and the circumstances of the offense.
The Different Types of Trespass
There are three types of trespass, each with a different punishment. The first type of trespass is known as “simple trespass.” This is when someone enters your property without your permission. The punishment for this type of trespass is a fine of up to $500.
The second type of trespass is known as “criminal trespass.” This is when someone enters your property to commit a crime. The punishment for this type of trespass is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
The third type of trespass is known as “aggravated trespass.” This is when someone enters your property to harm you or your property. The punishment for this type of trespass is a fine of up to $2,500 and up to two years in jail.
The Trespassers Act of 1980
The Trespassers Act 1980 covers the situation where people come onto your land without permission. Under the Act, a trespasser is someone who is not allowed to be on your land and who knows (or should know) that they are not allowed. For example, someone who climbs over your fence to get onto your property is a trespasser.
If you find trespassers on your land, you can ask them to leave. If they do not leave, you can call the police. The police may arrest the trespassers and take them to court.
If you are considering taking legal action against trespassers, you should get advice from a solicitor.
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 makes it an offense for a person, without lawful excuse, to enter or remain on land with another, and the trespasser knows or ought to know another.
The offense is punishable by a fine not exceeding £2,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or both.
If the trespasser fails to leave the land when asked to do so by a person entitled to possession of the land, they may be liable to a fine not exceeding £5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.
The Civil Liability Act 2002
The Civil Liability Act 2002 (Cth) was introduced to reform the law of negligence to promote personal responsibility and minimize the burden on the community of mercy, industry and other groups that incur liability in tort. The Act is based on the approach to negligence recommended by the Law Reform Commission in 1998.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957
The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 deals with the liability of an occupier of premises for any injury to persons coming onto those premises. The injury may be caused by the negligence of the occupier or may be caused by something on the premises.
The occupier of premises is someone who has control over them. This includes people who own the premises, those who lease the premises, and those who occupy the premises under a license. It also includes people who can use the premises for a particular purpose, even if they do not have full control over them.
The Act says that an occupier must take reasonable care to see that people who come onto the premises will be reasonably safe. The level of care required will depend on what is known about the person coming onto the premises and about any risks that might be involved.
If you are an occupier of the premises, you should ensure that anyone who comes onto the premises will be reasonably safe from any risks you know about or ought to know about. It would help if you also consider anything you can reasonably do to reduce risks.
The Land Registration Act 2002
The Land Registration Act 2002 creates a statutory right of way over unregistered land if certain conditions are met. The right of way will be for pedestrians, vehicles, or a combination. It will be for public or private use or both. An application can be made to the Land Registry to register the right of way.
The Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998 and came into force on 8 October 2000. Its chief purpose was to incorporate the rights of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. These include the right to life, the prohibition of torture, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to a fair trial. The Act makes it unlawful for any public authority, including a court of law, to act in a way that is incompatible with those rights.
The Environmental Protection Act of 1990
The Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended by the Environment Act 1995, gives the police and local authorities new powers to deal with trespassers on land. The police have the power to direct trespassers to leave the land and to arrest anyone who does not comply. Local authorities also have the power to remove trespassers from land and to seize and remove their property. These powers can only be used where there is evidence that the trespassers are causing damage to the environment or are likely to do so.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives the public a right of access to open country and registered common land for walking, subject to any restrictions which may be in place.
Trespass is not a criminal offense but a civil wrong for which the landowner can sue the trespasser. The landowner can also ask the trespasser to leave, and if they refuse, they can remove them using ‘reasonable force.
The police have the power to arrest trespassers in certain circumstances, for example, if they are causing damage or obstructing a highway. However, the police cannot evict trespassers and should only be called a last resort.
The Prevention of Crime Act 1953
The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 makes it an offense to loiter or prowl in a public place with intent to commit an arrestable offense. The penalty is a fine of level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1000). The term “public place” is defined in the Act and includes any highway or any other place to which the public has access, whether on payment or otherwise.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 considerably reformed the law of trespass in England and Wales, principally introducing new offenses and powers of arrest. The intention was to create a framework within which law enforcement officers could effectively tackle unauthorized encampments without unduly criminalizing those who camped without authorization, particularly where they caused no significant harm or damage and moved on promptly when required.
The Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001
The Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001 makes it a criminal offense to trespass on railway property to endanger safety or obstruct the running of the railway. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
The Act also makes it a criminal offense to have an article for use in connection with an act of trespass which, if used, would be likely to cause damage to the property or endanger safety. The maximum penalty for this offense is two years imprisonment.
In addition, the Act gives police officers greater powers to deal with people committing acts of trespass. Police officers now have the power to arrest anyone they reasonably suspect is committing, has committed, or is about to commit an act of trespass on railway property that endangers safety or obstructs the running of the railway.
The Terrorism Act 2000
The Terrorism Act 2000 (c.11) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that broadened the common law offenses of trespass and harassment.
Trespass is a civil wrong in English law, a tort. It has been codified in various statutes, most notably in the Trespass (Interference with Goods) Act 1971 and the Trespass to Land Act 1977. Under the common law, a person who commits trespass is liable to pay damages to the landowner.
The Terrorism Act 2000 makes it an offense to intentionally trespass on “protected sites.” These are defined as sites of special architectural or historical interest or designated for special protection by an order made by the Secretary of State. The maximum sentence for this offense is six months imprisonment.
The Act also makes it an offense to harass visitors to protected sites. This includes any behavior that would cause a person to be alarmed or distressed or interfere with their enjoyment of the site. The maximum sentence for this offense is three months imprisonment.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c.15) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It created a new offense of aggravated trespass, increased police powers of stop and search, and abolished the right to freedom of assembly in the vicinity of Parliament.
The Act was a response to the growth of serious organized crime and was intended to give the police greater powers to tackle it. The main provisions of the Act came into force on 1 April 2006.
The main provisions of the Act are as follows:
-It creates a new offense of aggravated trespass, which is punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a fine not exceeding £2,500, or both.
-It gives the police new powers of stop and search regarding suspected serious offenses and allows them to close down premises used for a serious crimes.
-It abolishes the right to freedom of assembly in the vicinity of Parliament.
-It makes it an offense for a person to possess an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives police and local councils new powers to deal with trespassers.
The Act makes it a criminal offense for a trespasser to:
- Intentionally damage property
- Intentionally or recklessly interfere with the operation of electronic communications apparatus.
- Threaten or use violence against a person or property
- Obstruct a person in the lawful use of a highway
- Camp on land without the consent of the owner or occupier
- Be in or on residential premises without the consent of the occupier.
- It is also an offense for a trespasser to occupy commercial premises that have been vacant for more than three months unless they have been authorized to do so by the owner.
- The Trespass (Amendment) Act 2015
- The Trespass (Amendment) Act 2015 makes it a criminal offense to enter or remain on premises when someone in authority asks to leave. The Act applies to all types of premises, including commercial premises, and creates a new offense of aggravated trespass.
The new offenses are:
-Trespass, which is the Act of entering or remaining on premises without the consent of the occupier;
-Aggravated trespass, which is the Act of entering or remaining on premises without the consent of the occupier, with intent to intimidate or annoy the occupier or any person lawfully on the premises; and
-Trespass with intent to commit a relevant offense, which is the Act of entering or remaining on premises without the consent of the occupier, with intent to commit an offense specified in Schedule 1A to the Trespass Act 1968 (such as burglary or theft).
The maximum penalty for trespass is three months imprisonment, a fine of £2,500, or both. The maximum penalty for aggravated trespass is six months imprisonment, a fine of £5,000, or both. The maximum penalty for trespass with intent to commit a relevant offense is ten years imprisonment.
The Policing and Crime Act 2017
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 makes it a criminal offense in England and Wales to trespass on a protected site to reside there. The Act also gives police officers new powers to direct trespassers to leave the land and to seize and remove vehicles used for trespass. The new provisions came into force on 1 April 2017.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015
The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 makes it a criminal offense in England and Wales for a person to trespass on protected sites. The Act creates two offenses:
Trespass on a protected site: An offense punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 months or a fine (or both). Protected sites include nuclear power stations, petroleum refineries, and electricity substations.
Aggravated trespass: An offense punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months or a fine (or both). This offense applies where a person trespasses on a protected site to intimidate those working at the site or disrupt the lawful operation of the site.
The Act also gives police officers the power to remove people from land where they are trespassing and to seize and destroy any property used in connection with the trespass.
The Serious Crime Act 2015
The Serious Crime Act 2015 makes it an offense to trespass on railway property if you intend to steal or damage something or interfere with the running of the railway. The maximum sentence for this offense is life in prison.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 makes it a criminal offense in England and Wales to enter a “designated area” without reasonable excuse, where entry is prohibited for purposes connected with terrorism. The new law will make it an offense to enter or remain in an area specified in an order made by the Home Secretary if the person knows that entry or remaining there is prohibited by the order. The maximum penalty will be ten years imprisonment.
The Home Secretary may make an order specifying an area in England or Wales for this offense if she considers that:
(a) there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that activities constituting terrorism have been, are being, or may be carried on there; and
(b) because of those activities, it is necessary to prohibit entry to the area to anyone other than a person falling within subsection (4).
The Home Secretary must consult the devolved administrations before making an order specifying an area in Wales.
The Trespass (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020
The Trespass (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 6 April 2020 and made it a criminal offense to trespass on certain types of land in England when specified warning signs are in place.
The effect of the Regulations is to create four new offenses:
Trespassing on land to reside there;
Trespassing on land and leaving litter or other waste there;
Trespassing on land and causing damage to property there; and
Trespassing on land and disrupting the lawful use of that land.
The maximum punishment for each offense is a fine of £2,500. The offense will be tried in the magistrates’ court.
The Regulations do not apply to any trespasser with a “lawful excuse” for being on the land, such as where they have the landowners’ permission or where they are exercising their rights of way.
If you find a trespasser on your property, the best action is to call the police. Once the police arrive, they will assess the situation and determine whether or not the trespasser is breaking the law. If they are, the police will make an arrest. If not, they will likely ask the trespasser to leave your property. If you feel unsafe or threatened, you can also call 911.