Trespassing in Arizona?
The law of trespass across the different states of the U.S. is geared towards protecting citizens’ properties. Many people think that trespass is just a civil wrong, a tort. That only the private person whose property was trespassed upon can sue the trespasser.
However, trespassing is not just a civil matter between two individuals in Arizona. It can amount to a criminal offense. We mean that the state of Arizona can prosecute an individual for trespassing on another person’s property.
Elements of the Offense of Trespassing in Arizona
A person commits criminal trespass in Arizona when they “Knowingly and unlawfully enter or remain on any real property (land, building, etc) after they have been asked to leave.”
Arizona laws classify trespassing into three degrees. Each degree of the offense has its definition and accompanying penalties. We shall consider the varying degrees of trespass in Arizona.
First Degree Trespass
First-degree trespass in Arizona could be a felony or a misdemeanor. According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1504, a person commits felony trespass in the first degree if the person:
- Enters or remains unlawfully in or on a public service facility.
- Enters or remains unlawfully in or on a residential structure.
- Enters or remains unlawfully on another’s property and burns, defaces, mutilates, or defiles a religious symbol or property without the owner’s permission.
- Enters or remains unlawfully in a fenced residential yard.
- Enters any residential yard and, without lawful authority, looks into the residential structure despite the inhabitant’s privacy rights.
- Enters unlawfully on real property that is subject to a valid mineral claim or leases with the intent to hold, work, take, or explore for minerals on the claim or lease.
The first three instances are felonies, and upon conviction, the accused could face up to 18 months in prison and $150,000 fines. The last three cases are Class 1 misdemeanors with a penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment and $2,500 fines.
Second Degree Trespass
A person commits second-degree trespass when they enter or remain on a non-residential property or in any commercial fenced yard unlawfully. This offense is a Class 2 misdemeanor and is punishable with up to 4 months imprisonment and fines of up to $750.
Third Degree Trespass
A person commits criminal trespass in the third degree if the person:
- Enters or remains unlawfully on any real property after the owner or any other person with lawful control over the property or a law enforcement officer has asked them to leave.
- Enters or remains unlawfully on the right-of-way for tracks, storage, switching yards, or a railroad company’s rolling stock.
Third-degree trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor and can attract up to 30 days in prison and up to $500 in fines upon conviction.
Possible Defences to Trespass
There are some available defenses against a charge of trespass, including:
1. Lack of Intent: Your defense attorney can argue that you didn’t intend to trespass on the property but trespassed unknowingly. This defense can succeed where a warning sign on the property is not in a place where all could see it.
2. A License: If the defendant had permission to be on the property, then a charge of trespass cannot stand.