Do I Need a Lawyer for Criminal Trespass?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 05, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ever since the advent of private property, we've had laws to keep uninvited people off that property. Trespassing statutes are some of the oldest, and most vigilantly defended, laws on the books, and they can also have their quirks. Do you have to know you're on someone else's land? Is it trespassing if there are no posted signs? Can you trespass in a store?

And if you've been charged with criminal trespassing, do you need a lawyer to defend the charge?

Trespassing Charges

State laws on trespassing can vary, but most jurisdictions classify trespassing as a misdemeanor crime, meaning the maximum punishment is a year in jail. That may not sound serious to some, but a conviction of any kind may keep you from getting a job, even if you don't get thrown in jail. And a good attorney may be able to prevent that from happening.

You have a right to an attorney if you've been charged with a crime, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can help protect other constitutional rights. Most importantly, she can help you invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. And she may also spot violations of your Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. There's a chance that, with the help of a good attorney, your trespassing charges may be dropped altogether.

Trespassing and Trials

Because it's a misdemeanor offense, most prosecutors will offer a plea bargain to either reduced charges or reduced penalties. While you can accept a plea bargain without legal representation, you'll only know if you're getting a good deal or not with an attorney's advice.

And if you believe you're innocent and plan to go to trial, you'll definitely need a good lawyer on your side. (We're all familiar with the adage that "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.") There are defenses to criminal trespassing charges, and an attorney will know which apply to your case and how to best argue and prove them. (There are also specific laws that address hunting and trespassing.)

If you've been charged with criminal trespass you should do yourself a favor and consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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