Being charged with trespassing is, to any degree, a criminal charge in North Carolina. But you may not realize that there are two forms of trespassing. It’s essential to know the difference, and what you may be facing if you’re charged with one or both of them.
On a basic level, trespassing is the act of intentionally going onto someone’s land without permission. You shouldn’t be there, you may see the posted signs, or someone has asked you to leave. While you may accidentally and unintentionally walk onto someone’s property at some point, bypassing signs that say “no trespassing” and going where you’ve been asked not to demonstrates intent, which makes the difference.
North Carolina has more than one type of trespass, which includes criminal trespassing. Here we discuss the differences.
First Degree Trespass (Criminal Trespass)
This Class 2 misdemeanor means that the state will be required to prove that a person not only entered the property but remained there and that the building or property was enclosed or secured that made it evident that the owner intended to keep people out of place. The penalties for this degree of trespassing is a maximum of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The penalties increase to 150 days in jail along with a fine to be decided by a judge if:
- The facility is owned by a utility, such as a:
- Public waterworks
- Natural gas entity
- Electric power supplier
- The individual breached a fence, wall, or other barriers to access the facility.
A trespasser can be imprisoned for up to 39 months if:
- The individual accessed the facility intending to disrupt the facility’s operations.
- The act of trespassing places the individual and/or others at risk for serious bodily injuries.
The act of trespassing then becomes a Class H felony.
Second Degree Trespass
This is a lesser charge of trespassing, such as being notified by an owner or authorized person (i.e., store manager) to leave or not enter the property or stays on the premises despite the posted signs warning intruders or others to stay out of the property. Although still a criminal trespass, a conviction for second-degree trespass is punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor, accompanied by a $200 fine and 20 days in jail.
Domestic Criminal Trespass
As the name indicates, this type of criminal trespass involves one party accessing or entering the property of a former spouse or domestic partner where he or she is no longer welcome and refuses to leave the property.
A person cannot just claim domestic criminal trespass; he or she will be required to prove it according to the state statute (N.C.G.S. §14-134.3), by:
- Showing that both parties have separate residences
- A court order requiring the party to stay away from the premises
- An agreement between the two parties to live separately
- An order of legal separation
Conviction of domestic criminal trespass is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor and a fine at the judge’s discretion.
However, if the property in question is a “safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence and the person is armed with a deadly weapon at the time of the offense,” an individual will be charged with a Class G felony. A conviction for a Class G felony entails a maximum jail time of 47 months.
Don’t Ignore A Trespassing Charge
Even as a misdemeanor, a conviction of any type of trespassing can have long-ranging consequences that impact your life, including a criminal record.
If you’ve been charged with trespassing, call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our online contact form.