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What is Defiant Trespassing in Pennsylvania?

Most people in Pennsylvania are familiar with the term trespassing. The offense occurs when a person enters a property without permission. However, a person may also trespass when they have permission to enter the property, but then refuse to leave when the owner asks. This was the case in a recent story that involved a woman that entered a property and refused to leave. She was later charged with defiant trespassing, along with a number of other offenses. So, what is the difference between trespassing and defiant trespassing in Pennsylvania?

Trespassing vs. Defiant Trespassing

Any time a person enters another person’s property without permission, they are trespassing. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to enter or break into any structure or building. Breaking in occurs when a person uses force or intimidation to enter a property.

The misdemeanor of trespassing does not require a property owner to post any signs warning trespassers to stay off the property. However, when a property owner has posted these signs, erected a fence, or asked a trespasser to leave and the trespasser entered or remained on the premises, that offense is considered deviant trespassing.

Both trespassing and deviant trespassing have serious penalties for those convicted. While entering or remaining on someone else’s property may not seem like a serious offense, a person could face jail time if they are convicted of the crime. In addition to jail time, a person may also be forced to pay high fines, enter a community service program, fulfill probation obligations, and pay restitution to the property owner.

Defenses to Trespassing

It is always frightening to face criminal charges and even though trespassing may not sound like a serious offense, the consequences are sometimes harsh. Anyone charged with any type of trespassing should always speak to a criminal defense lawyer that can create a solid defense.

One of the most common defenses used in trespassing cases is that the property someone allegedly trespassed onto was abandoned. In order for trespassing to occur, someone must enter or remain on a property without the permission of the property owner. Abandoned properties often do not belong to anyone and so, this can serve as a valid defense.

Even when a property is not abandoned, a person charged with trespassing may be able to use the defense that they believed the owner would have given them permission to enter. For example, if a property owner had gone on vacation and a relative of theirs entered the property to collect the mail, it is unlikely the relative would be convicted of trespassing.

Lastly, when the property a person entered was public property, it becomes more difficult to charge a person with trespassing. As long as the person complied with all rules and procedures for entering the property, they cannot be charged with trespassing.

Charged with Trespassing? Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help

Trespassing may not sound like a serious offense, but the penalties for those convicted are harsh. If you have been charged, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can assist with your case. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, we have the necessary experience to refute the claims of the prosecution and give you the best chance of beating the charges. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled attorneys.


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