PITTSBURGH CRIMINAL TRESPASS ATTORNEY

HOW IS THE CRIME OF CRIMINAL TRESPASS DEFINED IN PENNSYLVANIA?

The crime of criminal trespass is similar to burglary, however, there doesn’t need to be an intent to commit a crime when committing the trespass.

 

Section 3503 outlines what are three frequent categories of criminal trespass. The first is criminal trespass of buildings and occupied structures; the second is termed as “defiant trespasser”; and the third is “simple trespasser.”

 

To be found guilty of criminal trespass of buildings and occupied structures the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • That the actor entered, gained entry, or surreptitiously remained in any building or occupied structure; or
  • That the actor broke into any building or occupied structure—meaning gained entry by force, intimidation, the unauthorized opening of locks, or through an opening not designed for human access; and
  • The actor knew that he was not licensed or privileged to do either of the above things.

 

To be considered a defiant trespasser the prosecution must prove—

  • That the actor entered or remained in “any place” as to which notice against trespass is given;
  • That the notice against trespass was by one of the following means:
    • actual communication;
    • posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders (including at the entrance of school grounds);
    • fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders;
    • the placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on a property (in counties other than Philadelphia or Allegheny)
  • The actor knew that he was not licensed or privileged to enter or remain in the place to which notice against trespass was given

 

To be considered a simple trespasser the prosecution must prove—

  • That the actor entered or remained in “any place”;
  • The actor knew that he was not licensed or privileged to enter or remain in the place; and
  • The actor entered or remained in the place for the purpose of:
    • threatening or terrorizing the owner or occupant of the premises;
    • starting or causing a fire on the premises; or
    • defacing or damaging the premises.

WHAT IS AN “OCCUPIED STRUCTURE”?

An “occupied structure” is defined under the law as “any structure, vehicle or place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or for carrying on business therein, whether or not a person is actually present.”

Having tried these cases, by of example, a fenced-in junk yard can be an “occupied structure.”

HOW SERIOUS IS CRIMINAL TRESPASS?

Criminal trespass can be anything from a summary offense to a second-degree felony.

It’s a second-degree felony where the actor is convicted of breaking into a building or occupied structure.

It’s a third-degree felony where the actor is otherwise convicted of criminal trespass of buildings or occupied structures.

It’s a third-degree misdemeanor where the actor is convicted as a defiant trespasser and defied an order to leave personally communicated to them by the owner or other authorized person. It’s a first-degree misdemeanor, however, if the actual communication was to leave school grounds.

It’s a summary offense in all other instances.

WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO CRIMINAL TRESPASS?

Section 3503(c) sets forth three affirmative defenses to the crime of criminal trespass:

  • The building or structure was abandoned
  • The premises were open to the public, and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to and remaining on the premises
  • The actor reasonably believed that he was licensed to enter or remain on the premises by the owner or other authorized person

WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?

A prosecution for criminal trespass must be commenced within two years after it is committed.

 

If you or a loved one is charged with criminal trespass, call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, Ryan H. James, who has tried and argued these cases with successful results.  Attorney James can be personally reached at 412-977-1827, or by e-mail at ryan@rhjameslaw.com