If you have been charged with Trespassing please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date.
Under Rhode Island law, Trespassing is a misdemeanor charge, unless the charge is considered to be an act of Domestic Violence under the Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act. If the Trespassing accusation is coupled with a Domestic Violence allegation, and the individual has two (2) or more prior Domestic Violence convictions, (even if those convictions were not for Trespassing), then the Trespassing charge can be charged as a felony. This means that the possibility of going to prison for at least one (1) year is very, very real.
Since the consequences of a Trespassing conviction can be so harsh, especially in the context of a Domestic Violence charge, it is critical to at least speak with a competent criminal defense attorney who can assist you. Like most other criminal charges, you do not want to handle this type of case alone because a conviction for this can have both short and long term consequences.
Under Rhode Island law, Trespassing is defined as a person who, with no legitimate purpose, enters or remains upon someone’s property. In order to prove the case, the prosecution would have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged trespasser had:
- No reason to enter or to remain upon someone’s property, and
- Advanced notice that he or she was not allowed on the property.
This is why from time to time you will see posted signs that read No Trespassing. That constitutes sufficient advanced notice. The absence of advanced warning not to enter someone’s property should be a complete defense to a Trespassing charge. In my experience, that defense has always worked when applicable.
In addition to the foregoing, even if a person legally enters another person’s property, once the owner of the property orders the person to leave, the person must leave. If he does not leave he then becomes a trespasser based upon the refusal to leave.
In fact, Courts have held that if the person refuses to leave, the property owner can use reasonable force to eject the trespasser.
The only viable defense to a Trespassing charge of this sort is that the alleged trespasser had a legitimate reason for either entering or remaining upon another person’s property. For example, Courts outside of Rhode Island have concluded that when a person enters another person’s property to retrieve personal property, that person is not a trespasser because of the legitimate need to recover his property.
The lesson here is that whether or not someone is guilty of Trespassing turns almost entirely upon the facts of the case.