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Surprising ways you could be trespassing

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2023 | Firm News

Most people assume that trespassing only applies when you intentionally break into another person’s property in order to steal, vandalize, or hurt them. In actuality, many people enter private property accidentally. If you trespass by mistake and the property owner calls the cops on you, it could be challenging to prove your innocence.

What constitutes trespassing?

In Minnesota, you may face trespassing charges by unlawfully entering someone’s property even without intending to commit a crime. Here are some surprising ways you could be committing the crime of trespassing without knowing it:

  • Wandering into private property that has no obvious boundaries. This is common in rural areas where property owners are unable to fence or enclose their land due to its size.
  • Picking or harvesting fruit without permission. Reaching over someone’s fence to take some fruit could be both theft and trespassing.
  • Allowing your dog or other animal companion to walk, pee or roam around someone else’s property. Unless the property owner grants permission, you and your pet should not be on their yard, lawn or part of the sidewalk.
  • Staying past operating hours on public property. People sometimes assume that public spaces such as parks, playgrounds and libraries are free for everyone to use as they wish. However, the government owns these properties, and they are subject to specific opening hours. Being in these areas when it’s closed off or not in operation may be trespassing.
  • Remaining or returning to someone’s property after being told to leave. The property owner may consider this a threat to their safety.

Consequences of trespassing

Often, when people trespass, it is an honest mistake. Nevertheless, if the property owner does not see it that way, it could lead to criminal charges. Trespassing can result in misdemeanor charges, which carry penalties of up to 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000.

Certain situations may also elevate the crime of trespassing into a gross misdemeanor, which can result in a maximum penalty of one year in jail and fines of up to $3,000.

Whether it’s a mistake or intentional, defending trespassing can be a challenge. Unless it wasn’t absolutely necessary to enter someone else’s property, you may face criminal charges.

If you find yourself with trespassing charges, it is highly advisable to consult with a lawyer. They can provide guidance on what steps you can take next to possibly dismiss or reduce your penalties.