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Many pieces of property have “No Trespassing” signs posted, but people are still surprised to be arrested when they walk on someone’s property without permission. Trespassing is a crime in Ohio. Although not as serious as homicide or kidnapping, trespassing can carry stiff penalties and negative collateral consequences.

If you’ve been stopped or arrested for trespassing, you need an experienced attorney in your corner. Contact Groth & Associates today for a free consultation.

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What is Trespassing?

Ohio’s criminal trespass statute can be found at ORC 2911.21. It defines criminal trespass as any of the following:

  • Knowingly entering or remaining on someone else’s premises or land without privilege to do so.
  • Knowingly entering or remaining on someone else’s land without privilege to do so where the land use is restricted to certain people or certain purposes or hours.
  • Entering or remaining on someone else’s land or property in a reckless manner when the offender has been told not to enter or there is a fence designed to restrict access. Notice not to enter can be given in person or by the posting of a sign.
  • Refusing or negligently failing to leave someone’s property after being notified to leave.

For example, if you see a fence or a “No Trespassing” sign and you enter anyways, then you are trespassing. However, if you are wandering around and don’t know whose land you are on, then you probably are not trespassing unless you are told to leave or you see a sign posted. At that point, you should not go any further and should leave the property as soon as possible.




What Is the Punishment for Trespassing?


Criminal trespass is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. As a penalty, you could receive:

  • A fine of up to $250
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Both

Your punishment might increase if you committed the crime while using an all-purpose vehicle, off-highway motorcycle, or a snowmobile. In that case, your fine is two times the usual amount for a violation (up to $500). If you have trespassed multiple times using one of the above vehicles, then the state can impound the certificate of registration for at least 60 days.

There are also some negative collateral consequences that go along with a misdemeanor conviction. For example, you will need to disclose a criminal conviction when you apply for college, a job, an apartment, or a loan. If you have a professional license, then a criminal conviction can also jeopardize that as well.

What are Possible Defenses to a Trespassing Charge?

Like other aspects of criminal law, these cases often turn on your intent. Did you know you were trespassing on someone else’s land at the time? If not, then it will be hard to convict you. The statute lays out different ways that you can be given notice that you shouldn’t be on the property, such as the conspicuous presence of a “No Trespassing” sign or a fence enclosing the property. However, if there is no sign or fence, then you might be able to argue you didn’t know you were entering or remaining on property illegally.

Another defense we see in these cases involves whether you had a legal right to be on the property, called “privilege.” You might have a privilege in certain situations:

  • You own the property
  • You lease the property
  • You were invited by the owner or leaseholder onto the property
  • You have the consent of the leaseholder/owner to be on the property
  • You were a police officer performing your duty
  • You had to enter the property to save someone from imminent danger

Many cases revolve around invitation/consent. For example, you might ask your neighbor if you can go on his property, and he says, “Fine.” Is this a one-time permission? Has he given you permission to enter on other occasions? A lot depends on the words used and the context. In other cases, a property owner will see you on his property multiple times and never tell you to leave. Is this consent that allows you to enter the property when you want?

There are two defenses the statute says are not valid:

  • You can’t defend against a trespass charge simply by stating the land is public. Public land can still be closed or restricted to certain people or to certain times of the day. If you violate the restriction, then you are still trespassing.
  • You also cannot defend against a trespass charge if you obtained permission to enter by deception. For example, someone might impersonate a police officer or a utility worker in order to gain access. If this person lied about their identity or purpose, then they can’t claim they had permission to enter.

Speak with a Trespassing Defense Lawyer in Toledo Today

Trespassing is a serious crime, and you need the best legal assistance possible. Contact Groth & Associates today. We are seasoned criminal defense attorneys who are available to represent you. Call 419-386-0159 to schedule a free consultation.

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