It is against the law in Ohio to enter a property or a building owned by another person without that person’s consent. If you are accused of trespassing in Delaware County or anywhere else in Ohio, contact a Delaware County trespassing attorney as quickly as possible.
What is Ohio’s trespassing law? What are your legal rights if you are charged with trespassing? How will you be penalized if you are convicted of trespassing, and what is the most effective way to contest a trespassing charge?
In this brief discussion of Ohio’s trespassing laws, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn how an Ohio trespassing lawyer will handle your trespassing case, develop your defense, and fight on your behalf.
How Is Trespassing Defined in Ohio?
What constitutes trespassing in Ohio? According to Ohio law, anyone who commits any of these actions without permission, consent, or authorization may be charged with criminal trespassing:
- knowingly entering and/or staying on someone else’s land, property, or premises
- failing to leave land or property after being notified (by the presence of signs or fences)
- failing to leave land or property after being notified verbally to leave
Land, property, or premises may include any land, building, or structure controlled by, owned by, or in the custody of another entity or person, and any separate room, enclosure, or portion of that land, building, or structure.
What Does the Law Provide?
Criminal trespassing in Ohio is usually charged as a fourth-degree misdemeanor (except for “trespassing in a habitation,” which is explained below), but that doesn’t mean that trespassing is not taken seriously. A conviction may be penalized with a fine or even with a jail sentence.
If trespassing involves the use of a snowmobile, an off-highway motorcycle, or an all-purpose vehicle, any fine imposed on the offender will be doubled.
If you have two or more prior trespassing convictions involving the use of a snowmobile, an off-highway motorcycle, or an all-purpose vehicle, the registration or license plate of that vehicle may be impounded for up to sixty days.
What Are the Defenses Against a Trespassing Charge?
The lack of any criminal intent is a defense against a trespassing charge. For the state to convict you of trespassing, you had to commit trespassing consciously and intentionally.
A necessity defense may be put forth if, through no fault of your own, you trespassed to avoid harm. For example, if you trespassed by climbing over someone’s fence because an aggressive dog was chasing you, your attorney can claim that the trespassing was a necessity.
Another defense is the “claim of right.” In this scenario, the defendant claims that he or she had the legal right to enter and stay on the property and was not in fact trespassing. Other defenses against a trespassing charge include:
- Misidentification: The defendant claims that someone else committed the trespass.
- Fabrication: The defendant claims no trespass occurred and the allegation is fabricated.
What Defenses Against Trespassing Are Not Allowed in Ohio?
Ohio law disqualifies two potential defenses against a trespassing charge. First, the law states, “It is no defense . . . that the land or premises involved was owned, controlled, or in custody of a public agency.”
In other words, if a property is owned by a government agency, a person may still be charged and convicted for trespassing on that property. Secondly, the law states, “It is no defense that the offender was authorized to enter . . . when such authorization was secured by deception.”
In other words, even though someone has permission to enter onto a property, that permission isn’t valid if the person accused of trespassing gained that permission by deception.
Could a Trespassing Charge Become a Felony Charge?
Trespassing becomes a felony in Ohio when someone trespasses with the intention of committing another crime or trespasses into an occupied structure or.
If you illegally enter an occupied structure with no intention of committing a crime other than trespassing, you may be charged with “trespassing in a habitation,” a fourth-degree felony punishable with jail time and/or a fine of up to $5000.
An “occupied structure” is defined by Ohio law as any building, vehicle, trailer, or adjacent structure maintained or used as a permanent or temporary dwelling or habitation or for overnight accommodation, whether or not a person is actually present in the structure.
What Constitutes Burglary in Ohio?
You commit burglary by entering onto or into someone’s property, without that person’s consent, in order to commit another crime (such as theft or assault) while on the property.
Ohio law classifies burglary into three categories. First-, second-, and third-degree burglary are felonies in Ohio, and convicted offenders may be penalized with prison terms and substantial fines.
What Is Breaking and Entering?
Ohio has a separate breaking and entering law. It’s a crime in this state to enter any unoccupied structure by stealth, deception, or force with the intent to commit a theft or a felony. Trespassing on someone’s land in order to commit a felony also constitutes breaking and entering.
Breaking and entering is a lesser charge than burglary because it applies to land and structures that are unoccupied and nonresidential. Breaking and entering is a fifth-degree felony in Ohio, so a conviction may be penalized with a prison sentence and a fine.
If You Face a Trespassing Charge
If you face a trespassing, breaking and entering, or burglary charge in Delaware County or anywhere in the State of Ohio:
- Be friendly and cooperative with the police, but insist on your rights.
- Politely decline to submit to any questioning until your attorney can be with you.
- Don’t try to negotiate with the police or the prosecutor. Don’t sign any legal documents.
- Contact a Delaware County trespassing attorney as swiftly as possible.
Your lawyer will scrutinize any physical evidence in the case, question any eyewitnesses, and clarify what actually happened. Then your lawyer will take the aggressive, effective legal action that will bring your case to the best possible conclusion.
What Else Should You Know About Trespassing?
If you own property and you have questions about the trespassing laws and your property rights, speak at once with an Ohio trespassing lawyer. Everyone charged with a crime has the right to a good lawyer’s services and advice. If you are charged with trespassing, breaking and entering, or burglary, reach out at once to discuss your case with a Delaware County defense attorney today.