Courts prosecute the offense of criminal trespass to protect the interests of property owners from intruders. For example, you could commit criminal trespass by ignoring a “no-trespass” sign and unlawfully entering another person’s property. You could also face charges of criminal trespass if you refuse to leave a property after the owner orders you to leave. Criminal trespass in Arizona is divided into three categories, which are first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. Each degree is defined in the Arizona Revised Statutes. You could face charges under each degree based on the kind of property you enter and your behavior while on the property. For example, second-degree trespass involves commercial assets like warehouses or stores. You could face a fine, a jail term, or even probation if you are found guilty of committing second-degree trespassing. If you are facing second-degree trespassing charges, the Phoenix Criminal Attorney can assist you in creating a convincing defense to fight your charges.
Second-Degree Trespassing Under Arizona Law
Second-degree criminal trespass is defined under ARS 13-1503. You could be guilty under this statute if you knowingly enter or remain illegally on a non-residential property or in any fenced commercial yard. In this case, non-residential property could include particular religious property. On the other hand, you could face charges under ARS 13-1503 if you knowingly enter a designated media area without consent at an event in college. In this case, the area occupied by the media is regarded as non-residential property. A fenced commercial yard is a real property unit entirely enclosed by buildings, walls, fences, or similar barriers. A combination of buildings, walls, fences, or similar barriers could also enclose it. For example, it could be zoned for produce, livestock, and business operations.
You can only face charges under ARS 13-1503 if the prosecutor proves you acted knowingly or intentionally. According to this statute, you act knowingly if you:
- Commit an illegal act, and
- Know the unlawful nature of your act.
Penalties For Second-degree Trespass
Under Arizona law, second-degree criminal trespass is prosecuted as a Class 2 misdemeanor. You could face the following penalties:
- A fine that does not exceed $750.
- A jail term that does not exceed four months.
The judge can also grant you probation instead of a jail term.
Defenses For Second-degree Trespass Charges
It is always good to calm down when the prosecutor accuses you of a second-degree trespass offense. You could challenge the accusations successfully in court by hiring a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. The prosecutor could grant you a plea bargain or reduce the charges if you have an aggressive legal team around you. The prosecutor could also drop your charges if your attorney's evidence is more substantial than the prosecutor's.
Several defenses are available, which you can use to fight your second-degree trespass charges, including:
You could use this common defense if the police committed errors that led to a violation of your constitutional rights. For example, law enforcers can make errors while arresting you or gathering evidence. The court could dismiss your charges if the law enforcers committed violations themselves.
The Individual Who Ordered You To Leave Was Not The Property Owner
You can avoid trespass charges by adhering to the order of the property owner to leave. You will only get yourself into trouble if you overstay your welcome. However, this is different if the person asking to leave is not the property owner. You have no reason to leave if you have the property owner’s permission to be on the property. A stranger on the property does not have the power to order you to leave. However, to be safe, you should double-check with the property owner to ensure you are not trespassing.
You Have Consent To Be On The Property
Sometimes, misunderstandings and a lack of communication can lead to high tempers, and the property owner calls the police. For example, a relative could invite you to their house, and you meet and pick a fight with one of their friends on arrival. The friend calls the law enforcers in all that confusion, claiming you are an intruder. In this case, if you have evidence that you have consent from the property owner to be at the party, it is easy to disprove the trespassing charges. If you have evidence that your relative invited you, there is no need to take the matter to court.
You Had No Intent To Trespass
No intent is a common defense that you could use to challenge your trespass charges. For example, you could claim you did not know you were trespassing on privately owned land or property. You could present this kind of defense if the property is often unsupervised. The property owner could have used a ''no trespass’’ sign to stop intruders. However, the ‘’no trespass’’ sign could have been located where you did not see it. The no-trespass sign should be positioned at the property entrances. If the property owner fails to put up the sign and you enter, you could allege that you did not know you were trespassing.
You could have pleaded guilty to second-degree trespass charges because of the overbearing behavior of the law enforcers. You could contest your second-degree trespass charges by alleging that you could not have confessed to the offense if it were not for the arresting officer's outrageous behavior. You could also seek the services of a criminal defense attorney to help you challenge your charges if you feel that the law enforcers coerced you to confess to the offense. Often, the law enforcers could also make you believe that you would not go to jail if you confessed to a second-degree trespass offense. It is always advisable not to allow the police to make you face the repercussions of a crime you did not commit. Hiring a skilled attorney will help you gather sufficient evidence to convince the judge to dismiss your charges if the police coerced you.
Violation Of Your Rights
You can challenge your second-degree trespass charges if you believe the law enforcers violated your rights while arresting you. For example, the arresting officer could violate your Miranda rights. You also have a right to challenge your charges if the law enforcers subjected you to an unlawful search and seizure while arresting you. However, presenting this defense does not mean you cannot be convicted of second-degree trespass charges. It is a technical defense to show that the prosecutor or arresting officer unlawfully gathered the evidence against you.
The arresting officer should read your Miranda rights before asking you any questions. The law enforcers must inform you regarding your Miranda rights, including your right to remain silent. If the arresting officer fails to read your Miranda rights during arrest and questioning, it violates your rights under Arizona law. However, it is essential to know that law enforcers are not obliged to inform you of your Miranda rights. The law enforcers can only do so if they intend to arrest you. Otherwise, the law enforcers only focus on arresting and jailing you.
You Are a Victim Of False Accusation
Someone else can accuse you of committing a second-degree trespass under ARS 13-1503, even if you are not guilty. For example, a neighbor you are not on good terms with could falsely accuse you of committing the offense. In this case, you could seek the services of a skilled attorney if you believe you did not commit the crime. False allegations are usually motivated by jealousy, revenge, or anger.
Sometimes, your romantic or business rival, friend, or child could allege you committed a second-degree trespass on another person's property. Any individual having issues with you can table false trespass allegations against you in court under ARS 13-1503. However, if you consult a competent criminal defense attorney, he/she will help you create the best defense against the false allegations.
Law enforcers and prosecutors are often overzealous in accusing people of committing offenses, even without gathering substantial evidence. You can challenge your second-degree trespass charges under ARS 13-1503 if the prosecutor fails to provide sufficient evidence against you. It is unlawful for the prosecutor or the arresting officer to accuse you of a second-degree trespass offense if they cannot prove all the elements of the crime. The prosecutor must prove that you intentionally entered another person's property unlawfully. He/she must also prove that you trespassed on another person’s property without their consent. The prosecutor must also prove that you refused to leave when the property owner asked you to leave. The burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, but your attorney can take advantage of the prosecutor’s weak evidence to have your charges dismissed.
If it is hard for you to deny the second-degree trespass charges, your attorney can convince the prosecutor to grant you a plea bargain if other alternatives fail. A plea bargain is necessary if you cannot refute the liability of a second-degree trespass crime. A plea bargain is likely to be granted if the arresting officer’s evidence is weak, there are numerous cases in the system, or there are mitigating factors. Plea bargains give the court a right to charge you and allow you to enter a ‘’nolo contendere’’ plea to a lesser charge. A ‘’nolo contendere’’ plea always happens in exchange for severe charges of second-degree trespass.
Questionable Mental And Health Status
If the prosecutor accuses you of second-degree trespass, ARS 13-1503 requires that he/she prove that you had knowledge that you were trespassing on another person’s property. Your attorney could claim that you have poor mental and physical health. This is sufficient evidence to show that you had mental problems while trespassing on another person’s property. Your doctor’s medical records and reports could also be crucial to the court's ability to examine this defense.
There are several offenses related to second-degree trespass. They include the following:
Burglary — ARS 13-1508
The crime of first-degree burglary is defined under ARS 13-1508. You could commit first-degree burglary if you do the following:
- You commit what is deemed second or third-degree burglary.
- You commit the offense while intentionally possessing a dangerous instrument, a deadly weapon, or an explosive.
Typically, ‘’possession’’ means the following:
- Holding or possessing something physically.
- Having control or dominion over something. For example, having control over a gun when it is located in the trunk of your vehicle.
You can come into possession of a dangerous instrument, a deadly weapon, or an explosive if you use one during a burglary.
According to ARS 13-1508, a dangerous instrument is anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, threatened to be used, or tried to be used, can cause serious bodily injury or death.
Under ARS 13-1508, deadly weapons include knives and guns. However, other objects could be lethal weapons if you use them in a manner that could kill another person or inflict serious bodily injury. The objects could include the following:
- Using a vehicle to run another person down.
- A BB gun.
- Using a bottle to attack another person.
- Using an unloaded gun or a club to hit another person.
- A tire iron.
Prosecutors usually prosecute a violation of ARS 13-1508 as a felony. If you commit this offense in a residential structure, the prosecutor will charge you with a Class 2 felony. Additionally, the prosecutor will charge you with a Class 3 felony if you commit this offense in the following areas:
- Residential fenced area.
- Fenced commercial area.
- Non-residential structure.
You could face the following penalties:
- 12 years and six months in state prison for a Class 2 felony.
- A jail term of eight years and nine months in state prison for a Class 3 felony.
If any aggravating factors are present in your case, the jail term for a Class 2 or Class 3 felony can be enhanced. In this case, an initial charge is an example of an aggravating factor.
The defenses you could present to challenge your ARS 13-1508 are:
- The police violated your constitutional rights.
- You are a victim of mistaken identity.
- No possession.
Criminal Damage — ARS 13-1602
The crime of criminal damage is defined under ARS 13-1602. You could be guilty of this crime if you recklessly tamper with, deface, or damage someone else’s property. However, criminal damage is different from aggravated criminal damage. Aggravated criminal damage is a crime charged under ARS 13-1604 and applies to property damage to places like mortuaries, educational facilities, or churches.
A violation of ARS 13-1602 is often charged as a wobbler. The prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. The amount of property damage you cause will also determine how the prosecutor will charge you:
- If you damage property worth between $250 and $1000, you could face Class 1 misdemeanor charges leading to a jail term of one year.
- If you damage property worth less than $250, you could face Class 2 misdemeanor charges and a jail term of four months.
- If you damage property worth $10,000 or more, you could face Class 4 felony charges. The penalty you could face is a jail term of four years in state prison.
- If you damage property worth between $2000 and $10,000, you could face Class 5 felony charges attracting a two-and-a-half-year jail term.
- If you damage property worth between $1,000 and $2,000, you could face Class 6 felony charges leading to two years jail term.
The defenses against your charges could be as follows:
- No property damage.
- No reckless act.
Stalking — ARS 13-2923
A stalking offense is defined under ARS 13-2923. You could be guilty of stalking under ARS 13-2923 if you knowingly or intentionally engage in conduct directed towards a particular person. In addition, your behavior could make the person suffer emotional distress or reasonable fear for their life or the lives of their immediate family members.
Generally, an ARS 13-2923 violation is charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. However, you could face Class 3 felony charges if, in reaction to your conduct, the victim feared that he/she could die or that an immediate family member could die. The penalty you could face for a Class 3 felony includes a jail term that does not exceed seven years in state prison.
You could face Class 5 felony charges if, in reaction to your conduct, the victim did not fear death but he/she suffered emotional distress or only feared for their family’s life or well-being. The penalty you could face for a Class 5 felony is a jail term that does not exceed four years in state prison. However, the above jail terms could be enhanced if the following is true:
- You have an extensive criminal record.
- If you have any previous felony charge.
Some of the defenses you can use to contest your ARS 13-2923 charges include the following:
- No intentional act.
- No reasonable fear.
- Constitutionally protected activity.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If the prosecutor accuses you of second-degree trespass, you must contact a reputable criminal defense attorney. Second-degree trespass is a crime that could attract a fine, community service, and a jail term. Therefore, you should not take a second-degree trespass charge lightly because the potential consequences could adversely affect your life. At the Phoenix Criminal Attorney, our experienced attorneys can aggressively fight your charges or even seek dismissal. Contact us at 602-551-8092 to speak to one of our attorneys.