Defending Against Criminal Trespass Allegations In Florida
Criminal trespass in Florida is a crime in which an innocent mistake or misunderstanding can lead to criminal charges and legal headaches. Under Section 810.08 of the Florida Statutes, trespass occurs when someone who is not “authorized, licensed or invited” willfully enters or remains upon a “structure or conveyance”, or does not leave when asked to do so. This could also include returning to a property after being asked or warned not to do so. Entry on land that is enclosed and posted is also trespass under Florida law, whether or not the person is entering a structure or building.
At times a trespasser clearly has malicious intent and seeks to cause some kind of harm or damage. Other times, the alleged trespass may be due to a mistake, or scenario where the person thought they had (or did have) permission to enter.
Penalties for Trespass under Florida Law
Regardless of the cause behind the alleged trespass, conviction of this crime can have serious consequences. A simple trespass on private property can be a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and fines under Florida Statutes, Sec. 775.082. Trespass when there are other people present on the private property can escalate the charge to a first degree misdemeanor, and up to one year in jail.
Trespass with a firearm or dangerous weapon – or arming oneself while trespassing – involves a third degree felony charge.
In addition to jail time, fines, and court costs, a trespassing conviction can lead to other ramifications including issues applying for jobs or housing.
Defenses to a Trespassing Charge in Florida
- You weren’t there. Without eyewitnesses or camera footage showing you were present at the location in controversy, the prosecution will have to rely on circumstantial evidence putting you at the scene of the trespass. Circumstantial evidence is notoriously unreliable and easy to refute – especially if you are innocent. You may also have evidence showing you were somewhere else at the time of the alleged trespass incident.
- You did not willingly enter or remain on the property. Florida’s trespass statutes require an element of willingness to trespass. If you mistakenly walked upon certain property or accidentally entered the wrong building, then it can’t be said that you “willfully” entered and committed trespass.
- The area or building was open to the public. Certain park buildings, parks, and other public areas carry implied consent for visitors to enter and exit during their “open” hours. The “where and when” is an important part of this defense.
- The property owner consented to your presence on the property. Consent to enter is an affirmative defense that the accused trespasser can raise. If they can present some type of evidence that they were authorized to be present on the property, the burden shifts to the prosecution to show the elements of trespassing were still met and the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- There were no witnesses to the alleged act of trespass. If law enforcement didn’t see you there and no other witnesses can prove your actions through testimony, the prosecution will have a difficult time framing you as guilty, and your innocence may be supported by the lack of witness testimony.
When to Contact an Orlando-Area Criminal Trespass Defense Attorney
A criminal trespass charge may seem like a minor offense but can have fairly severe consequences including jail time and heavy fines. If charged, you will want an expert criminal defense attorney at your side. Our Orlando burglary & trespass attorneys at Joshi Law Firm, PA, will investigate all facts involved in the alleged incident and challenge the prosecution’s case.