How to Charge Someone With Trespassing

Updated May 3, 2024
6 min read
How to Charge Someone With Trespassing

Many of us go home to feel protected, safe, and empowered. For most people, home disturbances are never welcome. If someone enters your home or any other property that is in your private ownership, and they are not welcome — that’s trespassing. If the intruder was told not to enter — that’s trespassing. If they’ve been asked to leave and refused — that’s trespassing. Learn how to file trespassing charges, and don’t let the criminal roam free.

What Is Trespassing?

Trespassing is widely defined as entering someone’s property without permission. It doesn’t only apply to people’s homes; one can trespass on private business property, too. However, finding another person on your property does not qualify as trespassing. Let’s look at the official definition.

Trespassing is defined as “knowingly entering another owners’ property or land without permission, which encroaches on the owners’ privacy or property interests.” Criminal trespassing in the first degree and second degree is also considered a misdemeanor trespass. Both unlawful acts warrant criminal penalties. The crimes can be defended with the help of a criminal defense attorney. Here are the main features of trespassers:

  1. The trespasser has to enter someone else’s property knowingly without permission. Thus, if the act is an accident and the trespasser agrees to leave immediately, it cannot be considered trespassing.

  2. The goal and intent of the visit have to be malicious. The trespasser has to plan to damage your private property or cause interference with your life. The act likely won’t be considered trespassing if no such intent is present.

To counter that, accidentally entering a private property is not trespassing. With no visible “no trespassing” signs, it cannot be considered a criminal offense, though property with a sign is not necessarily secure from intruders. Finally, if the individual leaves immediately after being asked to do so, it is not trespassing.

There are some exceptions to the law. The first one is a necessity. If it was absolutely necessary for the individual to trespass to protect themselves and/or their property, or another individual and/or their property, and there was no other way to do so, it is not considered trespassing. Any possible damages may then be discussed in court. The owner of the land cannot ask the trespasser to leave until the danger has passed.

Though a landowner is not responsible for any damage done to a trespasser on their land, the law makes an exception for children. If the land owner can anticipate children trespassing on their land, they are not allowed to create unnatural conditions that would seriously harm the children. That could be applicable if your land borders a park near a primary school, and there are no clear indicators of where your property begins.

What to Do If Someone Is Trespassing on Your Property

When you spot a trespasser on your property, you are faced with three potential options:

  1. If the situation does not appear threatening and you suspect the trespasser has no intention to harm you or your property, you may consider approaching them. Explaining the situation and asking them politely to leave your property might lead to the best outcome. For all you know, they didn’t even know they were trespassing!

  2. If, on the other hand, you sense potential danger and believe the trespasser to have malicious intent, the best option would be to call the police. They can handle the situation better and safer than you most of the time. Unless there is an element of urgency, such as when you’re being attacked and have no time to grab your phone, calling the police might be your best bet. Find a safe hiding spot and dial 911.

  3. Your third option is confronting the trespasser and using force to get them to leave. You are permitted to use force in some states, though it’s never legal to use deadly force (unless it’s self-defense). This option is not advisable, as it is the most dangerous. If the situation escalates, it’s safer to run away and call for help. Either way, call the police as soon as you’ve found a safe enough place to do so.

What Is the Penalty for Trespassing?

Penalties for trespassing vary based on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony. This is really based on what transpires during criminal trespassing. For example, if somebody is told not to come onto your property, but they still do, and all they do is harass your dog for a few minutes before the cops show up, it will likely be a minor incident. They are generally prosecuted as an infraction, often just a monetary fine of a few hundred dollars.

If the police have identified the trespassers but haven’t taken action, you can file a cease and desist letter. In this document, you should mention trespassing as an unlawful activity and officially ask the other party to stop bothering you. This letter will prove that the trespassers keep intentionally entering your property.

Slightly more severe trespassing, like misdemeanor trespassing, means there is interference in your business or your daily life without any threats to your safety, well-being, or physical harm. These typically result in up to six months in county jail and a fine.

The most serious of cases are felony cases that are referred to as aggravated trespassing. This involves not only trespassing but direct harm or threats. This can come with multiple years of incarceration.

How to Charge Someone With Trespassing on Your Property

To accuse someone of trespassing, they need to meet the above requirements for it to be a criminal offense.

You can press charges against a trespasser through your local police department. Consult a lawyer or police officer to ensure the event that occurred qualifies as trespassing. Gather information about the trespasser to allow the police to identify them. That may include their height, weight, hair color, gender, race, clothes, car, and any personal information you possess, such as their name. Take that information to your local police station and ask for help writing a report.

Can you call the police for trespassing?

Not only can you but absolutely should you call the police for trespassing! It is a criminal offense. Calling the police is the safest option for dealing with the issue. It is also a sure way to get the act on record, speeding up the process of writing a report and pressing charges.

How to report someone for trespassing?

Getting in touch with your local police department is the most crucial step in reporting a trespasser. If the incident took place when you were on the property and you called the police directly, they will ask you a couple of questions right away. If you did not get in touch with the police immediately, you can take a trip to your local police station. Either way, the questions will be the same. You will be asked to:

  • Describe the situation, including the date and time of the incident, the actions performed by the trespasser, and so on.

  • Describe the trespasser; the more detail, the better. This description dramatically impacts the chances of finding the trespasser and charging them.

  • Provide evidence. This might be a tricky one, but it’s the thing that separates a failed case from a successful one. Unfortunately, a lack of evidence may shut down your case.

The police will help you write a report. After that, they’ll inform you about any relevant developments in your case. It is not your duty to press charges against a trespasser; the decision is always yours. You may issue a trespass warning and open up the case later. Either way, it’s always a good idea to write a police report. It keeps your options open and allows you to press charges in the future.

How to file trespassing charges in civil court

You can file a civil lawsuit against anyone who trespasses on your property. Civil lawsuits are a way for you to get compensation for any damages the trespassing causes. This is something you would do in addition to filing charges against someone for criminal trespassing.

To successfully bring about a lawsuit for trespassing, you might consider getting legal advice from an attorney to verify that:

  1. You did your part to make it clear to the trespasser they were not allowed to enter your property.

  2. They knowingly and intentionally entered your property in spite of all warnings or knowledge.

  3. As a result of entering your property, they damaged your property, you, or your family.


Trespassing charges can vary in severity. The penalty for criminal trespassing may fall anywhere from a small fine to jail time. A victim of trespassing may also fall victim to other crimes, such as breaking in, battery, and assault. Reporting the incident to the police as fast as possible and sharing all the details dramatically improves your chances of catching the culprit and pressing trespassing charges.

You may find it helpful to seek legal advice. Check attorney listings and find someone specializing in criminal trespass in your city. Entering into a confidential relationship with a lawyer will protect your interests as a property owner. A person accused of trespassing should find criminal defense lawyers to represent them.

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