Trespassing

Chloe Meltzer

May 09, 2022

They say nothing goes with PB quite like some Justice (or is it Jelly?).

Summary: here isSoloSuit's guide on everything you should know about trespassing.

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

Trespassing is a crime that is often considered an infraction, and it is most commonly prosecuted as a misdemeanor. However, if you've been caught trespassing, the consequence depends on the state you are tried in. In most situations, trespassing is not a crime that you want to commit.

What is trespassing?

Trespassing is generally the entry onto land without the consent of the landowner. However, it can refer to a variety of offenses, against either a person or a person's property.

When it relates to real estate law, trespassing means entering onto land without the consent of the landowner. However, there are both criminal and civil trespass laws. The difference is that criminal law is governed by police, sheriffs, or park rangers. Civil trespassing is initiated by a private citizen who is a landowner, and then a private enforcement action in court needs to be handled in order to collect any damages.

Criminal trespassing

Criminal trespass is usually related to burglary. Although this may sound consequential, criminal trespassing is usually considered a less serious crime in the eyes of the law. Most often criminal trespassing is tried as a misdemeanor or an infraction. This is not the same in every state, but the offense is usually examined and treated based on the circumstances. Additionally, criminal laws usually have stiffer penalties for entering a residence, versus other forms of trespassing.

Not only may someone suffer criminal charges due to trespassing, but they can also face civil liability. Trespassing is a violation of someone's property rights. Therefore a property owner can sue a trespasser for money, even when the trespasser does not cause any issue such as:

  • The trespasser's presence did not hurt anyone
  • The trespasser did not damage the property

What is considered trespassing?

There are a few specific acts that are considered trespassing. Most states generally describe trespassing as walking on private land that does not belong to you, but there are other acts that are considered trespassing as well.

In civil trespassing, trespass is an area of “tort” law, which means a “civil wrong”. It is generally divided into three groups:

  • Trespass to the person = wrongful and unwanted interference of another person's body, liberty, or rights
  • Trespass to chattels = wrongful interference of another person's property (other than real estate)
  • Trespass to land = entry or use of another person's land without permission or good reason

However, any of the following can be considered trespassing. For example:

  • Walking on someone else's land
  • Hunting on someone else's land
  • Cutting down trees without permission
  • Tampering with vending machines
  • Entering or remaining in a motor vehicle without the owner's permission

Intent and knowledge must be proven to be considered trespassing

The level of intent is the knowledge or intent that a trespasser has to cross another person's land. Therefore, in order to be convicted of criminal or civil trespass, there must be some level of intent required.

For example, a trespasser cannot simply wander onto someone else's land and be convicted of trespassing. Landlines are not always obvious. Should the owner tell the trespasser not to go on their land, or if the land is fenced, then this would be considered clear knowledge of the privacy of the property. Similarly, if a "no trespassing" sign is posted, this would be considered sufficient knowledge to avoid entry.

When the land is open, there is a much less likely chance that the trespasser will be convicted. Especially if their conduct did not substantially interfere with the owner's property, and the trespasser left once aware of the situation.

Express consent and trespassing

When a landowner specifically indicates that there is permission granted to enter their land, either verbally or in writing, it is considered to be express consent. It is essential to obtain this with a start and end date to ensure compliance and understanding on both sides. In most states, a landowner may give permission to enter their land for a limited time or purpose, but it is revocable at any time.

Implied consent and trespassing

In some cases, consent may be implied from the landowner's conduct, or from the specific circumstances. Even if the landowner was not able to give consent, it may be implied. Especially in the case that it is necessary to save a life or prevent a serious injury.

When a trespasser gets injured, the landowner may be liable

There are protections for trespassers if they get injured while in the act of trespassing. In some situations, homeowners may be liable for the injuries of the trespassers. This is usually if a landowner purposefully injured the person, or knew that trespassing is a common occurrence. Should they be aware of this, and keep their property in an unsafe condition, they may be liable.

This might mean a homeowner sets a booby trap or a tripwire. If the trespasser is injured by this wire, the homeowner may be liable for injuries.

Homeowners can prevent trespassing

If you have a problem with frequent trespassers coming onto your land, it is recommended to add a "Private Property" or "No Trespassing" sign in a visible place on the property. This makestrespassers aware that it is private land, and it also expresses that they have not been given consent to enter the land. Installing a video camera is also an option. Not only will a camera deter trespassers, but it can give you proof should something occur on your property due to unwelcome guests.

If you have been convicted of trespassing

In the event you are being prosecuted by the state for criminal trespassing, you need to understand what this means. If you are convicted, you could be fined or sentenced to jail. This means you should consider the following defenses:

  • Trespassing did not substantially interfere with the owner's use of the property
  • You left the property immediately after being aware, or after being confronted
  • You personally had consent
  • The property was actually open to the public
  • The law gives you a right to enter the property due to an easement
  • You entered the property out of necessity (such as being chased to seek safety)

Although each case will vary based on the situation, it is a good idea to get all of your facts in order and know how you wish to approach your case.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Get Started


We have answers.
Join our community of over 40,000 people.

You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.


Ask a Question


>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

How to answer a summons for debt collection in your state

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah; File a Motion to Satisfy Judgment
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

    Guides on how to beat every debt collector

    Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.

    Win against credit card companies

    Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.

    Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips

    How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts

    How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide

    Get answers to these FAQs

    Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

    Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

    How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

    What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

    Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

    SoloSuit FAQ

    If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

    Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

    Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

    Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

    What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

    Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

    What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

    What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

    What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

    What is a Stipulated Judgment?

    What is the Deadline for a Defendants Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

    Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

    Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

    Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

    Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

    Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

    Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

    Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

    Am I Responsible for My Spouses Medical Debt?

    Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

    Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

    How Does Debt Assignment Work?

    What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

    How Does Debt Assignment Work?

    Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

    What Is a Warrant in Debt?

    How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

    Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

    Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

    What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

    Does Student Debt Die With You?

    Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

    How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

    What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

    How Long Does a Judgment Last?

    Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

    Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

    Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

    The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

    Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

    Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

    What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

    Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

    Learn More With These Additional Resources:

    Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

    How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

    How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

    How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

    How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

    Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

    Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

    Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

    Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

    New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

    Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

    The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

    West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

    What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

    Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

    How to Liquidate Debt

    Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

    Youre Drowning in Debt — Heres How to Swim

    Help! Im Being Sued by My Debt Collector

    How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

    How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

    North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

    ClearPoint Debt Management Review

    Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

    Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

    CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

    How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

    How to Appear in Court by Phone

    How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

    Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

    Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

    How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

    Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Heres What to Do

    How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

    Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

    Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

    How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

    How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

    Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

    How to Stop a Garnishment

    Debt Eraser Review

    Do Debt Collectors Ever Give Up?

    Can They Garnish Your Wages for Credit Card Debt?

    How Often Do Credit Card Companies Sue for Non-Payment?

    How Long Does a Judgement Last?

    ​​How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

    How to Beat a Bill Collector in Court