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Criminal Trespassing Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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In the state of Florida, you can be accused of committing criminal trespass when you are told to remove yourself from a store, house or other property, or if the lawn or other land is enclosed or has signs put up informing people that they are not welcome on the premises. This applies to the “Authorized Personnel Only” signs that you see in businesses along with “No Trespassing” signs that can be found on the perimeters of lawns. Certain properties like schools are usually not legally accessible to the general public. You could also be accused of felony trespass if you should be caught trespassing while you are carrying a firearm, or you are completely unarmed but still on the school’s property without the proper authorization.

If you or someone that you love has is facing criminal trespass charges in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then a criminal trespass defense attorney from Musca Law will be able to help you dispute the charges against you. Convictions for criminal trespass bring with them serious negative impacts on your life and a strong legal argument that challenges all of these accusations is going to require an attorney with an intimate knowledge of all of the various factors that are involved in a case of criminal trespass.

What Constitutes Criminal Trespassing in Fort Lauderdale?

In Florida, criminal trespass is classified as a type of property crime and it is legally defined as “entering or remaining on the property of another person without permission, after receiving notice that entry is not allowed.” 

This notice could be as simple as a generic sign like a “No Trespassing” sign, or you could be explicitly instructed to vacate the premises. The property might be land, a building, or a vehicle. Once you are instructed to keep off of the premises of a residence, business or any other place, you can then be detained and accused of committing criminal trespass should you choose to access the premises once more or if you refuse to vacate immediately after being told to do so.

Sadly, the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” may not apply 100% of the time when you are dealing with a case of criminal trespass in Florida.  In certain circumstances, you might very well be considered guilty unless and until you are able to establish beyond a doubt that you did not commit criminal trespass.

Florida Statute § 810.12(1) asserts that any unlawful entry onto any property that is enclosed or otherwise surrounded by a fence or has posted signs reading “No Trespassing” or similar messages is “prima facie evidence of trespass.” This is a warning that you are going to need a Musca Law criminal defense attorney to present an abundance of conflicting testimony in court in order to circumvent a guilty verdict for a crime of criminal trespass. The way in which this is most often done is to show proof that you were, in fact, granted approval or welcomed onto the premises by the owner.

Should your assistant or some other person has received authorization from you to operate or drive a vehicle or a machine like a tractor, a tool or an animal wanders onto a property that is enclosed or clearly marked with “No Trespassing” or comparable signs, then Florida Statute § 810.12(2) maintains that this is “prima facie evidence” that you created or ensured that criminal trespass took place. Your Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney will have to describe to the court the reasons that you are not legally accountable for trespassing that was perpetrated by your assistant or some other person.

If you decide to access someone else’s private property in order to illegally dump garbage, then Florida Statute § 810.12(5) indicates that this is prima facie evidence of your plan to engage in criminal trespass. If garbage is located on the premises that include any of your post or other personal items that have your identifying information on them, and there is additional proof that intimates that you might have engaged in criminal trespass, this will constitute a rebuttable presumption that you engaged in criminal trespass. In each of these situations, you would have to explain exactly how the garbage came to be there if you did not commit criminal trespass, or find some other way of proving that you are not the offender.

Florida Criminal Trespass Charges

Crimes involving trespass are listed under Chapter 810 of the Florida Statutes. Florida Statute § 810.011 gives us the below listed legal definitions:

  • Structure: “A building of any sort, either temporary or permanent, that has a roof over it, together with the curtilage thereof (during the time of a state of emergency declared by executive order or proclamation of the Governor and within the area covered by such executive order or proclamation, the term means a building of any kind or such portions or remnants thereof as exist at the original site, regardless of absence of a wall or roof)”
  • Dwelling: “A building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether such building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, together with the curtilage thereof (during the time of a state of emergency declared by executive order or proclamation of the Governor and within the area covered by such executive order or proclamation, the term includes such portions or remnants thereof as exist at the original site, regardless of absence of a wall or roof)”
  • Conveyance: Any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car; and “to enter a conveyance” includes taking apart any portion of the conveyance (during the time of a state of emergency declared by executive order or proclamation of the Governor and within the area covered by such executive order or proclamation, the term “conveyance” means a motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car or such portions thereof as exist).”

Degrees of Criminal Trespass and Their Penalties in Fort Lauderdale

The standard sentences for criminal trespass largely hinge on what sort of property you were trespassing on and various other factors like whether or not the building was empty or had people inside and whether or not the offender was carrying a weapon of any sort.

Criminal trespass is a crime that is classified as a misdemeanor in the second degree provided that the property is an empty vehicle or building. You are able to be charged, however, with the far more pressing charge of burglary should you decide to trespass in a vehicle or building for the purpose of perpetrating additional criminal acts.

The crime may also be classified as a misdemeanor in the second degree should you be within 500 feet of a school during school hours or within an hour of the school opening or closing, and you are not a business operator, employee, resident nor do you have any other authorization or any kind of legitimate business. This scenario may be punishable by as long as 60 days in county jail, and an administrative fine of as much as $500.

Criminal trespass is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree in the event that:

  • An owner, resident, or other sanctioned person is present in the structure or vehicle, like a motor home or a boat
  • “No Trespassing” or similarly messaged signs are visibly posted around the premises
  • You take down or in any way damage any “No Trespassing” or similarly messaged signs
  • The property is enclosed or otherwise fenced off
  • The property is land that has been developed for agricultural purposes 
  • The property is a lawn or yard encompassing a residence, even if it is not enclosed, and the offender accesses or stays behind for the purpose of engaging in another crime on that property
  • The offender ignores a personally given instruction to vacate the premises from the owner of the property or some other approved person
  • The offender intentionally opens any fence, gate, or door or performs any other action that imperils crops, animals, or other property by exposure or proximity to destruction, waste, or freedom
  • The offender illegally dumps garbage onto the premises

A guilty verdict for criminal trespass that is classified as a misdemeanor in the first degree may receive a sentence of as long as one year in county jail, a fine of as much as $1,000, or both.

Criminal trespass is classified as a felony in the third degree in the event that:

  • The offender is carrying a firearm or some other dangerous weapon
  • The area is a horticultural site, construction site, or agricultural site that has been allocated for research and/or testing purposes, an agricultural chemical manufacturing plant or a center for domestic violence and signs are clearly posted distinguishing it as such and advising that trespassing is a felony
  • The offender shoots an arrow, bullet, crossbow bolt or any other possibly deadly projectile across the property while shooting at animals without first having the proper authorization or approval
  • The offender is on school grounds with no legitimate business.or explicit permission

Criminal trespass is classified as a felony in the third degree may receive a sentence of as long as five years in state prison and a fine of as much as $5,000 or both.

Those who engage in the act of criminal trespassing are also able to be lawfully restrained by employees, supervisors, property owners or any other persons who have been granted permission by the supervisor or owner in the event that the trespasser is outfitted with a firearm or other deadly weapon or if a person is trespassing on school property.

Under these circumstances, the person who is detaining the offender is safeguarded from any civil lawsuits, as are any operators and owners of agricultural land should a trespasser sustain an injury on the property, even in circumstances where the farmer was clearly negligent.

Defenses to Criminal Trespass Charges

The single most deployed defense to an accusation of criminal trespass is to prove that you received consent to be on the premises from someone with the authority to give it.  For instance, if one owner of a rented or jointly-owned property grants you license to be on the premises, you should not be charged with criminal trespass in the event that one of the other property owners are unaware that you have been given permission, sees you on their land, calls the police and gets you arrested.

If and when you are told to vacate the premises, the individual instructing you must be the renter, owner, one of their workers or somebody who is fully authorized to do so. Even a law enforcement officer doesn’t possess the necessary authority to force you to vacate private property, even for the sake of the state laws, so long as the owner of the property, employee or operator has not requested that you vacate the premises. For instance, let’s say that you find yourself in a disagreement at a pub and a law enforcement officer instructs you to get out of the pub but you decide not to listen, you cannot rightfully be found guilty of committing criminal trespass except in the case that the state is able to demonstrate that the server or some other employee asked you to leave the pub.

You might also be able to put your job to good use as a legal defense strategy. For example, let’s say you are a meter reader for the county electric company or maybe a process server delivering summons’ to people all day long, you should be able to dodge a conviction for criminal trespass for accessing a building or lawn where the majority of people would not typically be permitted to wander. A shrewd and dedicated Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney from Musca Law will be able to thoroughly examine your case and help you construct a foolproof defense strategy against your criminal trespass charges.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Fort Lauderdale office today at (954) 302-5391 to schedule a free initial case consultation with one of our highly qualified criminal defense attorneys.

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