As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I understand that mistakes sometimes happen. You may enter the property by mistake or you may believe you have permission to be on the property. Even if you are trespassing, you may believe you have a valid reason for being on the property. If you have been charged with criminal trespass in North Carolina, I want to help.
Below is a brief discussion about trespass charges. If you need more information, I encourage you to contact our office to discuss your charges in further detail.
What is Considered Trespassing in North Carolina?
In its simplest form, trespassing is defined as “the act of knowingly entering another person’s property without permission.” However, this definition does not adequately explain a trespassing charge in Onslow and Duplin counties. A review of N.C.G.S. §14-159.12 and §14-159.13 gives us a better explanation of trespassing charges in North Carolina.
First Degree Trespass
To prove a person is guilty of first degree trespass, the state must prove that a person entered or remained the property or building of another person AND that property or building was secured or enclosed in a manner that demonstrated the owner’s clear intent to keep our intruders. First degree trespass is a Class 2 misdemeanor that carries a potential punishment of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. However, certain factors can increase the charges of a first degree trespass.
If all of the following factors are present, first degree trespass is a Class A1 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 150 days in jail and a fine that is at the discretion of the judge:
- The property is owned or operated by an electric power supplier; public water system; natural gas entity; or, a facility used or operated for agricultural activities AND
- The person entered a building or breached a barrier (i.e. fence, wall, etc.) to reach the facility.
If any of the following elements are present in addition to the above elements, the charge increases to a Class H felony punishable by up to 39 months in prison:
- The intent is to disrupt the normal operation of the facility; and/or,
- The act places the offender or others on the property at risk for serious bodily injury.
Second Degree Trespass
The state must prove that a person enters or remains on property after the owner or an authorized person notifies the person not to enter or remain on the property OR the person enters or remains on property that has posted signs warning intruders not to enter. A second degree trespass conviction is punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor. This carries a potential sentence of 20 days in jail and a $200 fine.
What is Domestic Criminal Trespass in North Carolina?
Another type of trespass in North Carolina is defined under N.C.G.S. §14-134.3. Domestic criminal trespass involves a present spouse, former spouse, or a person who lived with another person as if they were married entering or remaining on the premises occupied by the alleged victim after being forbidden to do so. However, to be guilty of domestic criminal trespass, the parties must be living apart.
Because this definition can create some confusion, the law also requires some evidence that the parties are living apart. Therefore, the statute specifically lists the following evidence of the parties living apart. However, the statute also makes it clear that this is not an exhaustive list:
- An order of separation;
- A court order directing the party to stay away from the premises;
- An agreement between the parties to live apart; or,
- The parties have separate residences.
A conviction of domestic criminal trespass is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine set at the discretion of the judge. However, the charge of domestic criminal trespass is elevated to a Class G felony if the property 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.” A conviction of a Class G felony is punishable by a maximum of 47 months in prison.
Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney
“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”
One of the best choices you can make is to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are charged with trespass in North Carolina. The criminal defense attorney at Welch and Avery has the resources, skills, and knowledge to mount a strong defense to trespass charges. We investigate each case thoroughly and listen to your side of the story to help you fight trespass charges. Do not trust your future and your freedom to a public defender. Let our attorneys fight to keep you out of jail and keep your criminal record clean.
Welch and Avery represents clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County, and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 665-9134 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.
Image Credit: Jorge Franganillo
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