If you have received a notice of trespass from a store or an individual, you might be confused about what it is, and if it means that you have been charged with a crime. The good news is a notice of trespass is not a criminal charge and will not show up on your criminal record. It is often a private notice issued and maintained by a business or property owner. In some situations, it can also be maintained by local law enforcement. It is important to take a notice of trespass seriously, however, because violating it is a criminal offense.
What is a Notice of Trespass?
For the most part, property owners can decide who is or is not allowed on their property. Technically, they do not need a “lawful” reason to serve you with a notice of trespass. A notice of trespass is typically issued after some type of dispute with a business or property owner. The notice normally is a document with your name on it that informs you that you are no longer allowed on that property for a fixed amount of time. A few examples where we see notices of trespass issued are after an argument with a property owner; for somebody accused of stealing from a business; or where a police officer sees someone walking around a closed construction site. There are countless other examples.
The notice serves as a revocation of your right to be on that property- meaning if you are caught back on that property before the notice expires, you could be charged with a crime. It is crucial that you read the entire notice and check the specific information of where and for how long you have been banned. For example, if you receive a notice of trespass from a store in a shopping mall, you must verify whether you have been banned from the store only or from the entire mall. Another example might be if a person was trespassed from a Target in Seattle, does it include all Target stores everywhere or just that one store in Seattle? It is crucial to read the entire notice to avoid making a mistake and getting charged with a crime.
Surprisingly, small businesses and corporations do a good job of keeping track of who has received a notice of trespass and is banned from their property. It is important to read through the entire notice to avoid violating it and do not rely on them forgetting about you by the next time that you return.
What Happens if You Violate a Notice of Trespass?
If you return to the property and you go inside of the business or structure you have been prohibited from entering, you could be charged with Criminal Trespass in the 1st Degree.
- This is a Gross Misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine.
If you are found outside the building but still on the property, such as in a parking lot, you could be charged with Criminal Trespass in the 2nd Degree.
- This is a Simple Misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.
We can argue against these charges in a few different ways, such as by arguing that you made an honest mistake and did not know you were violating the notice. We can also look at the technical information outlined in the notice and whether you violated it or not.
Contact Us to Represent You
Being accused of Criminal Trespass is a difficult thing. However, it is not a hopeless situation. If you take the right steps now, jail time and convictions can often be avoided. If you are in need of help, please give our office a call. We can be reached at (425) 224-7075. We will listen to what happened, identify a way forward and do whatever is possible to get you the result you need and deserve The Law Offices of Lance Fryrear has more than 20 years of defending this type of situation throughout Washington State. Give us a call and we will be there for you.