Trespass is a legal term that you have likely heard over your lifetime. Generally speaking, a trespasser is someone who is on property without permission of the owner to be on the land. Under North Carolina law, trespass is a criminal offense and can result in a serious charge depending on the circumstances of the case.

Types of Trespass Charges

In Monroe Union County, and most other counties across North Carolina, there are two types of criminal trespasses that are not related to domestic issues - first and second degree trespass. Under either type of trespass, the person who allegedly trespassed must not have a legal right to be on the property in question. Not surprisingly, this is an issue that is heavily contested in cases involving trespass charges.

  • First degree trespass: A Class 2 misdemeanor, a person charged with and convicted of first degree trespass faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.00. First degree trespass happens when a person enters or stays on another’s enclosed or secured property without permission. The person does so either with the intent to keep other intruders out or simply stays in the building on the property. First degree trespass is treating more harshly than second or third degree trespass because it involves a higher level of intrusion than the others do under the law.
  • Second degree trespass: A Class 3 misdemeanor, a person charged with and convicted of second degree trespass faces up to 20 days in jail and a $200.00 fine. Second degree trespass happens when a person enters or remains on the property of another without permission. This happens when the trespasser does not leave after being told to do so, remains on the property after being instructed to stay away by someone of authority, or after ignoring posted signs alerting others not to enter the premises.
Other Types of Trespass

Beyond first and second degree trespass, the law governs other types of trespass such as domestic criminal trespass. As it implies, this type of trespass happens with individuals who are involved in a domestic relationship. More often than not, it involves a couple that was once married or in a romantic relationship who have split up and live in separate residencies. Put simply, domestic criminal trespass happens when a person who has been banned from a former partner’s home or property enters the property or refuses to leave after entering.

In order to be found guilty of domestic criminal trespass in North Carolina, the parties must be living separately. Some examples of evidence that a couple is no longer living together includes:

  • The parties are living in separate residencies;
  • The parties have a court order of separation;
  • The parties have agreed to live apart; or
  • A court has directed on party to stay away from the premises.

The above are some, but not all, of the manners in which it can be proved the parties are living apart in order to support a Monroe Union County domestic criminal trespass charge. Domestic criminal trespass is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Someone charged with and convicted of domestic criminal trespass in Monroe Union County faces up to 12 days in jail and a discretionary monetary fine.

Defenses to Trespass Charges

There are some defenses available to a person charged with the act of trespass. That being said, mistake or ignorance of the law or fact is not a justification for trespass.

Title and possession of the property is one defense to trespass, if the person is a bona fide purchaser and has ownership claim over the property in question. Another defense to trespass is when the accused has acquired a right of easement, or the right to use the property of another without actually possessing it. Statute of limitations, or going beyond a certain time frame to charge with trespass, is another defense an accused may put forth to fight a charge if he or she can prove entitlement to the time limitation. The doctrine of estoppel is also a defense to trespass. Estoppel occurs when a person who had a duty to act or speak failed to do so, intentionally or negligently making another person through this actions or silence believe a fact did not exist, upon which the other person relied and acted. Furthermore, necessity is a defense to trespass as is if the person was abating a public or private nuisance.

Criminal Defense Help

Because the different types of trespass charges are similar but have very different consequences and possible punishments, you should contact the experienced criminal defense and family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Our attorneys practice in several counties across North Carolina, including Monroe Union, and we have years of legal training and experience. We will defend your rights in criminal and civil court, as needed.