Where you go, and even where you look, can be viewed as a crime in Arizona. Criminal trespassing laws in our state are strict and can come with serious consequences if you are convicted. At best, a criminal trespassing conviction will be a class 3 misdemeanor; at worst, you could be facing prison time and a class 5 felony. It is important to understand what constitutes criminal trespassing and what penalties you could face if you are charged with this crime.
Misdemeanor Criminal Trespassing
Under ARS 13-1502, 13-1503 and 13-1504, there are provisions for different types of misdemeanor criminal trespassing. This law breaks criminal trespassing in Arizona into three classifications: criminal trespass in the first, second, and third-degree. All three degrees can result in a misdemeanor, with a possible felony charge for some types of first-degree criminal trespass.
With misdemeanor criminal trespassing, you can be charged for entering a property unlawfully, or even looking into a private yard or residence. These laws are to protect property from theft and vandalism, but also to protect privacy for the owners of the property. Regardless of a person’s intent, if they commit the following acts, they can be charged with criminal trespassing and may face a misdemeanor charge:
• First-degree misdemeanor criminal trespass. There are three ways to be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor trespass. 1) Entering/remaining in a residential yard; 2) Entering a residential yard unlawfully and looking into the residential structure; 3) Entering unlawfully onto land with a mineral lease with intent to explore, look, or take minerals.
• Second-degree misdemeanor criminal trespass. You can be charged with second-degree criminal trespass for entering any commercially fenced yard or non-residential structure unlawfully.
• Third-degree misdemeanor criminal trespass. If you enter or remain unlawfully on a property after being asked by the property owner or a law enforcement officer to leave, you can be charged with third-degree criminal trespass. This charge also applies to entering or remaining in a railroad stockyard or on the right-of-way of the tracks.
While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, you can still face up to six months in jails, and up to $2,500 in fines. Plus, if convicted, this will stay on your record, which could impact employment and other opportunities in the future.
One of the common reasons people are charged with a misdemeanor criminal trespassing is during protests. For example, seven protestors were arrested last year for sitting in the lobby of Senator John McCain’s office building in Phoenix, and all were charged with criminal trespassing because they were unlawfully in a non-residential building and remained after being asked to leave.
Felony Criminal Trespassing
There are situations under the first-degree criminal trespass ARS 13-1504 where you can be charged with a felony. There are three circumstances that are considered more serious and warrant a felony charge. These include:
• Unlawfully entering or remaining in or on a residential structure.
• Unlawfully entering or remaining on another person’s property and defacing, burning, or mutilating a religious symbol or property.
• Unlawfully entering or remaining in a public service facility.
The last offense is the most serious, with a possible class 5 felony charge, while the other two can result in a class 6 felony charge. The consequences are steep – in Arizona, a class 5 felony can result in up to 2.5 years in prison. Class 6 felony is prison up to 2 years, for first-time offenders, more if you have a previous conviction. Plus, extreme fines of thousands of dollars can be added with a conviction, depending on the charge.
Fighting a Criminal Trespassing Charge in Arizona
If you are charged with criminal trespassing, it is not a matter to be taken lightly. You may think simply explaining to a judge what happened may be enough to have the charges reduced or dismissed, but that is rarely the case. Even if you meant no ill intent, just being in the wrong place, or even looking at the wrong place, could end up with you spending time in jail if you do not have a good defense attorney on your side.
Whether you were spotted peeking into a yard or house, or jumped a fence in a rail yard for fun, you could be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. There are options to fight these types of charges, getting them reduced or even dismissed with the right legal defense. Our team at Matthew Lopez Law has the experience and expertise you need on your side to get the best outcome in your case. Contact us at one of our offices throughout Arizona for a consultation – we have offices in Tempe, Apache Junction, and Lake Havasu City for your convenience.