When it comes to the term ‘trespassing’, most are familiar with the general concept. However, it is important to note that in North Carolina, laws surrounding trespassing are strict, and therefore should be taken seriously.
Whether you are a property owner, or somebody who has been charged with trespassing, understanding the details of this offense in North Carolina is crucial. Here at Kirk Kirk Law, we are here to talk through what defines trespassing, the charges you can encounter in North Carolina, and how we can help you build a defense case if you are faced with this charge.
What Defines Trespassing in North Carolina?
Defining what trespassing means in North Carolina is a great place to start. To put it simply, trespassing is defined as entering the private property of a landowner or legally permissible occupant without their permission, or by violating a sign that clearly states ‘no trespassing’.
This means that in crossing the line of the boundary of a property that is clearly distinguished, you may be trespassing. If a private property has a sign which clearly states ‘No Trespassing’ or ‘Posted’, this would be classed as sufficient notification to deter potential intruders from trespassing. If you were to violate this sign, someone could easily charge you with trespassing. Domestic criminal trespass can also result in serious punishments, and we’ll discuss this later.
Trespassing Charges You Can Face
Trespassing is defined as a Class 2 misdemeanor under N.C.G.S. 14-159.12 and the consequences of not understanding trespassing laws properly can be serious. Charges can include fines, imprisonment, and other types of punishment, alongside resulting in a permanent criminal record.
Can I Be Charged with Trespassing Even if There’s No Sign?
The Statutory Definition of trespassing states that you could be charged with trespassing even in the absence of a ‘no trespassing’ sign. In Raleigh, you could be arrested for first-degree trespassing if the property is clearly secured as a measure to keep out intruders.
If a verbal warning from the owner, occupier, or another party in lawful possession of the land is ignored, this would also result in a second-degree trespassing charge.
Trespassing Laws in NC
North Carolina splits its trespassing laws into two specific classifications: first and second degree trespassing. Depending on the unique circumstances of each case, the penalties and definitions of each type of trespassing will vary. To help, we have defined each of these trespassing classifications below.
With a first-degree trespass, a person must have entered a property or building that was clearly enclosed to show the owner’s intent to keep intruders out. This is charged as a Class 2 Misdemeanor, and is punishable with up to a $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail.
However, this can escalate into an A1 Misdemeanor charge if certain criteria are met. To be defined as an A1 charge, the person must have entered the property by breaching a barrier such as a wall or a fence. For this type of charge, the property must be owned by public works or a private firm.
Class H Felony
The final specification of a first-degree trespass is called a Class H or Class I Felony. To become a Class H felony, a person must have intended to disrupt the normal operation of a business, placing others at risk of injury or death. This type of felony can lead to up to 39 months in prison.
Trespass would be categorized into a Class I Felony if the trespasser re-entered after being removed by an official order, or if the trespasser provided a false representation of ownership or access to a property – for example, pretending they had the owner’s permission to enter.
A second-degree trespass is defined as a Class 3 misdemeanor that can cause up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. If the intruder is found on the property and stays on the property after the owner has asked them to leave, this would be defined as second degree trespass.
What is Domestic Criminal Trespass?
The final trespass charge to mention is the domestic criminal trespass charge. This type of trespass involves those who are married, separated, divorced, or who are former partners that lived together. This Class I misdemeanor can cause up to 120 days in jail and a fine determined by the judge.
Here, the trespasser would enter a property despite being informed not to enter or remain on the property by a ‘victim.’ To claim you are the ‘victim,’ you must have documentation of the separation from the trespasser.
Class G Felony
If the victim is living in a safe house for domestic violence victims, and the property is violated by a trespasser, it can result in up to 47 months in prison and is defined as a class G felony.
If the trespasser is armed with a deadly weapon and commits a domestic trespass, the charge will be escalated to this type of felony as well.
What are the Consequences of a Raleigh Trespassing Conviction?
Since a criminal trespassing charge can result in a criminal record, the personal impact of trespassing can be felt for years to come. Having a permanent criminal record can result in issues with various future endeavors such as problems with your employer, child custody, immigration, and financial support.
Defenses Against Trespassing Charges
There are more serious crimes out there than a criminal trespass charge. However, it should still be taken seriously, as having a permanent offense on your criminal record should be avoided. Fortunately, there are some defenses you can deploy against a trespassing charge.
Sometimes, a case can be built to show you had no intention of trespassing. However, it’s important to note that a powerful piece of incriminating evidence can be a clear ‘no trespassing sign.’ Sometimes, these might include:
- If you actually had permission to enter the premises, or if you were not notified by a sign reasonably expected to come to your attention.
- If it was necessary for you to trespass due to an emergency situation.
Consult Legal Advice for Trespassing Charges Today
If you’ve been charged under North Carolina’s trespass laws, we advise you to consult a criminal defense attorney based in North Carolina to ensure the best personalized support.
If you are involved in a criminal trespassing case, we are here to help at Kirk Kirk Law. We can help you build a robust defense, providing experienced and compassionate support when you need it the most.
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