Criminal Trespass in Connecticut
When a person is on another person’s property without permission, it is generally in the service of committing a crime, like burglary. This is not always true - but even when it is not, you may still be on the proverbial hook for the crime of criminal trespass. It is important that you understand your or your child’s entry onto private land may still rise to the level of criminality, and if it does, to react accordingly.
Three Degrees of Trespass
There are three degrees of criminal trespass under Connecticut law, and all hinge on the issue of intent. If you specifically ignore an explicit communication advising you that you are trespassing (or will be if you enter the land), but you enter or refuse to leave regardless of that fact, you will be charged with first-degree criminal trespass, which is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, plus a fine of up to $2,000 and court costs. Second-degree trespass does not involve any kind of explicit communication and is a class B misdemeanor, and third-degree trespass deals only with those caught entering onto private land to hunt or fish, which is a class C misdemeanor.
It can be easy to confuse criminal trespass with burglary, as both require entry onto someone else’s land without express permission. However, in order to be charged with burglary, you must not only enter onto the land; you must enter into a “building” or a “dwelling” with the specific intent to commit a crime. Criminal trespass does not require the intent to commit a crime - only the intent to remain on the land. The distinction is fine, but it is quite important, given that the minimum sentence for burglary is equivalent to the maximum sentence for criminal trespass.
Have You Been Charged?
If you have been charged with criminal trespass in Connecticut, be aware that all is not lost. There are several legal defenses to the charge of trespass, given that trespass is what Connecticut calls a specific intent crime. A specific intent crime is a crime that requires the specific intent to perform an unlawful act and get a certain result - for example, Connecticut law holds that if a person comes onto another person’s land in violation of a restraining order, that constitutes first-degree criminal trespass. They specifically intended to break the restraining order. Someone who commits criminal trespass knowingly intends to enter or remain on land that is closed to them by law.
In order to defend yourself against a charge of criminal trespass, you must be able to demonstrate to the court that you lacked the intent to commit the unlawful act - for example, if you can show that you reasonably believed the land was open to the public, you would naturally not have intended to trespass because there would have been no need. It may also be a successful defense, depending on the situation, that you had no knowledge that you were on private land at all. If, say, you are charged with second-degree trespass, no communication needs to have been present, but without explicit information that you were trespassing, a reasonable person might wonder how they were supposed to know that they were.
Contact a Connecticut Criminal Trespass Attorney Today
A charge of criminal trespass is nothing to take lightly, but at the same time, you do not have to resign yourself to the inevitability of having a conviction on your record. Calling a skilled Stamford criminal trespass attorney can be a good step toward getting this matter cleared up in an appropriate way. The Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner are happy to try and assist you with your case. Call our office today at 203-348-5846 for a free consultation.