Trespassing on private property in Florida can occur in any number of circumstances. It is essentially entering private property without the express or implied consent of the owner. Private property refers to any of the following:
- Residential--You must be expressly invited by the owner.
- Commercial public and private property--Access is limited to certain people. This includes schools, office buildings, industrial parks.
- Commercial private property--Implied access is given. This would include shopping centers, department stores, amusement parks, golf courses, restaurants, and movie theaters, among others.
Some people like firefighters, meter readers, and police officers who enter private property while in the course and scope of their duties and authority are immune from trespassing charges in most cases.
Trespassing offenses typically include people who have been asked to leave a commercial establishment, nightclub or bar, or retail store but who attempt to reenter or refuse to leave. These situations are generally charged as misdemeanors but can be felonies in certain situations.
Trespassing as Misdemeanor
Florida considers trespass as a second degree misdemeanor if you unlawfully enter or remain in a structure or conveyance like a car or train. If someone is present, though, the offense is upgraded to a first degree misdemeanor.
A second degree misdemeanor carries a possible jail term of up to 60 days, 6 months’ probation and a $500 fine. A first degree misdemeanor conviction means up to 1 year in jail, a year of probation and a $1,000 fine.
It is also a first degree misdemeanor if you are on property, other than a structure or conveyance, where a sign or notice has been posted or otherwise communicated to the offender not to trespass.
If you are on school grounds without permission or without legitimate reasons, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree unless you have been advised to leave and you do not. In that case, the trespass is a first degree misdemeanor.
Trespassing as Felony
Trespassing can be enhanced to a third degree felony if you carry a firearm or other dangerous weapon. If you are convicted of a third degree felony you may face up to 5 years in prison, 5 years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.
Where the trespass occurs will also determine the penalty. If the trespass occurs on a construction site larger than one acre and there is a posted warning that designates the area as a construction site and informs anyone that trespassing is a felony, then the offense is a third degree felony.
The same is true of an agricultural site for testing or research purposes, also expressly designated with a posted warning; a domestic violence center; or if you try to take an animal or to kill one without authority.
These particular laws are directed towards animal rights activists, unlicensed or unauthorized hunters, or estranged spouses who are looking for their spouses who are seeking shelter from alleged domestic abuse.
There are numerous defenses to a trespassing charge. For example, consent can be implied if the landowner has allowed people to enter the property for whatever reason in the past.
Justification or necessity is also a defense such as steering a vehicle to avoid striking and killing someone and ending up on private property, or where someone enters property to rescue a person.
The lack of a posted warning that advises you that you are on certain prohibited property and the penalty for being there may also be a defense.
Retain Services of The Wiseman Law Firm
If you face trespassing charges, you need to immediately retain legal counsel to protect your rights and to ensure that you have the legal protection and representation you need to fight these charges.
The Wiseman Law Firm has skilled criminal defense lawyers who have successfully defended clients in cases like yours by either getting the charges reduced to an infraction, downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor, imposition of a fine only, or outright dismissed.