Property owners in Pennsylvania have the right to deny access to unwarranted third parties. An alleged offender who is accused of trespassing should understand that this is not just a simple citation, but a criminal offense that may result in lengthy terms of imprisonment and huge fines.
In some cases, alleged offenders may be accused of trespassing even though there were no signs posted issuing a warning for visitors. In other cases, people may have mistakenly believed that they had been granted access.
Philadelphia Criminal Trespass Lawyer
Were you arrested for allegedly trespassing on someone else's property in Pennsylvania? You need to take these criminal charges seriously and immediately seek the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Joseph Lento of Lento Law Firm represents clients in Philadelphia County and nearby areas of Pennsylvania against many types of criminal property offenses. He can review your case and help you understand your legal options when you call (215) 535-5353 today to set up a free, confidential consultation.
Philadelphia County Criminal Trespass Information Center
- What are the different degrees of trespassing in Pennsylvania?
- How might an alleged offender be punished if he or she is convicted?
- What kinds of defenses can be used by a person facing these charges?
There are multiple kinds of trespassing defined in Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 3503. The classes of alleged offender listed under this statute include:
- Defiant Trespasser — It is a third-degree misdemeanor if an alleged offender, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by either actual communication to the alleged offender, posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders, notices posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the person's attention at each entrance of school grounds that visitors are prohibited without authorization from a designated school, center or program official. This offense is a first-degree misdemeanor if there is an actual communication to the alleged offender to leave school grounds as communicated by a school, center or program official, employee or agent, or a law enforcement officer.
- Simple Trespasser — It is a summary offense if an alleged offender, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, enters or remains in any place for the purpose of either threatening or terrorizing the owner or occupant of the premises, starting or causing to be started any fire upon the premises, or defacing or damaging the premises.
- Agricultural Trespasser — It is a third-degree misdemeanor if an alleged offender, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, enters or remains on any agricultural or other open lands when such lands are posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the person's attention or are fenced or enclosed in a manner manifestly designed to exclude trespassers or to confine domestic animals. This offense is a second-degree misdemeanor if the alleged offender enters or remains on any agricultural or other open lands and defies an order not to enter or to leave that has been personally communicated to him by the owner of the lands or other authorized person.
- Agricultural Biosecurity Area Trespasser — It is a summary offense if an alleged offender knowingly or recklessly fails to perform reasonable measures for biosecurity that by posted notice are required to be performed for entry to the agricultural biosecurity area. This offense is a third-degree misdemeanor if the alleged offender enters an agricultural biosecurity area, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so. If either of these actions causes damage to or death of an animal or plant within an agricultural biosecurity area, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor.
A person convicted of a trespassing offense in Pennsylvania faces very harsh penalties. Depending on the specific crime an alleged offender is charged with, punishments could possibly include:
- Summary Offense — Up to 90 days in jail and maximum fine of $300
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and maximum fine of $2,500
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to two years in jail and maximum fine of $5,000
- First-Degree Misdemeanor — Up to five years in jail and maximum fine of $10,000
In addition to defenses in which the alleged offender does not admit to the commission of the supposed crime, Pennsylvania also allows for certain affirmative defenses in which a person's actions may be excused or justified. Some affirmative defenses can include:
- Building or occupied structure was abandoned
- Premises were at the time open to members of the public and alleged offender complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises
- Alleged offender reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him to enter or remain
An alleged offender accused of agricultural biosecurity area trespassing can also use the following affirmative defenses:
- No reasonable means or method was available to perform the measures that the posted notice required to be performed for entry to the agricultural biosecurity area
- Entry was made in response to a condition within the agricultural biosecurity area that the alleged offender reasonably believed to be a serious threat to human or animal health as necessitating immediate entry to the agricultural biosecurity area
Some of the possible defenses that may be utilized by alleged offenders who are challenging the claims made by prosecutors may include, but are not limited to:
- Alleged offender given conflicting instructions by property owners
- Alleged offender had to trespass in order to protect himself, herself, or third party
- Alleged offender was unaware he or she was trespassing
- Alleged property owner not authorized to deny access
- Lack of evidence
- Lack of signage or posted notices
- Mistaken identity
Find the Best Criminal Trespass Lawyer in Philadelphia
If you have been charged with trespassing in Pennsylvania, you should waste no time in contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney. Joseph Lento has been aggressively defending people against various property crimes for nearly a decade.
Lento Law Firm serves residents of Philadelphia County as well as many surrounding areas of Pennsylvania. Call (215) 535-5353 to have our firm review your case during a free legal consultation.