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What Is Criminal Trespass in Phoenix?

What Is Criminal Trespass in Phoenix

Trespassing on another person’s residential or commercial property is a criminal offense. According to criminal trespass laws in Phoenix, you cannot enter a property after the property owner or police ask you to leave or they have posted reasonable notice prohibiting entry.

When a person commits criminal trespass in Phoenix, they could face significant penalties, including jail time or fines. The property owner could also file a civil lawsuit against the offender, depending on the circumstances. If you were charged with criminal trespass in Phoenix, a defense attorney could help you fight the charges.

Each state has its own laws regarding criminal trespass to protect the interests of property owners. There are three degrees of criminal trespass: first, second, and third. First-degree criminal trespass carries the most severe punishments, while third-degree carries the least.

All three degrees of criminal trespass in Phoenix reflect that the accused has unlawfully entered another person’s property. However, there are different penalties for each degree of this crime.

First-Degree Criminal Trespass

Again, criminal trespass in the first degree carries the most severe consequences. A first-degree trespass crime is a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

For example, a person commits a first-degree felony when they:

  • Unlawfully enter and stay on a residential property
  • Unlawfully enter someone else’s property and burn or manipulate any type of religious symbol without the owner having knowledge or giving permission
  • Knowingly enter and stay at a public service facility unlawfully

A person commits a first-degree misdemeanor when they:

  • Unlawfully enter a fenced-in yard and remain on the premises
  • Violate someone else’s privacy by looking into the windows of a residential property after entering their yard unlawfully
  • Unlawfully enter a property intending to collect minerals from the area

Second-Degree Criminal Trespass

A second-degree criminal trespass charge ranks as a misdemeanor only. This type of charge carries heavier consequences than a third-degree criminal trespass charge, but less than a first-degree one.

A person commits a second-degree trespassing crime when they unlawfully enter or remain in a commercial fenced-in yard. Therefore, this crime typically deals with commercial property rather than residential property.

Third-Degree Criminal Trespass

Criminal trespass in the third degree is also a misdemeanor charge.

According to state law, a person commits criminal trespass in the third degree when they:

  • Knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on a property after the property owner or a member of law enforcement asks them to leave
  • Knowingly enter a property when there is signage stating that trespassing is not allowed.
  • Knowingly enter and remain unlawfully on the property of a railroad company

Punishments for Criminal Trespass in Phoenix

The punishments for criminal trespass vary based on the severity of the incident and the degree of the charge. A defense lawyer can review your case and explain what consequences you might face.

First-Degree Criminal Trespass Punishments

A first-degree criminal trespass charge in Phoenix is either a Class 6 felony or a Class 1 misdemeanor.

If a person gets convicted of this crime, they potentially face:

  • Class 6 felony: Up to 18 months in prison and up to $150,000 in fines
  • Class 1 misdemeanor: Up to six months in prison and up to $2,500 in fines, plus additional surcharges

Punishments vary case by case, depending on the circumstances and the evidence presented. A criminal trespass defense attorney can help lessen the punishment by providing evidence to defend the person who received the charge.

Second-Degree Criminal Trespass Punishments

A second-degree criminal trespass charge in Phoenix is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

If a person gets convicted of this crime, they potentially face:

  • Up to four months in prison
  • Up to $750 in fines

Again, depending on the circumstances of the case and the available evidence, these punishments could vary.

Third-Degree Criminal Trespass Punishments

A third-degree criminal trespass charge is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

If a person gets convicted of this crime, they potentially face:

  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • Up to $500 in fines

How to Defend a Criminal Trespass Charge in Phoenix

To have the best chance of getting cleared of criminal trespass charges, it’s important to build a solid defense. Usually, a criminal defense attorney can help in situations like these. An experienced attorney has the skills and knowledge to build a strong case and defend you against a felony or misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.

There are several possible defensive strategies to use when a person faces criminal trespass charges in Phoenix, including:

  • Lack of intent to trespass: The person who trespassed could state they ended up on the property by accident and did not realize they were trespassing.
  • Lack of proper signage: If there was no signage that warned of trespassing, the person accused could state they were unaware they were on private property.
  • Invitation by the property owner: The person accused of trespassing could state the owner of the property invited them, so they had permission to locate themselves on the property.

For these defensive strategies to work, the defendant must prove the circumstances in question with evidence. For instance, if the property owner invited them, having proof of the invitation (such as a text, email, or voice mail) would be extremely beneficial to the case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phoenix Criminal Trespass Laws

Because there are different degrees of criminal trespass in Phoenix, many people have questions about the various laws. Below are some commonly asked questions and answers about this topic.

What Happens if I Get Convicted of Felony Criminal Trespass?

In addition to facing up to 18 months in prison and $150,000 in fines if convicted of criminal trespass, a felony conviction can stay on your record for the rest of your life. As a result of the state’s sentencing laws, most felony convictions in Phoenix remain on your record until you turn 99.

Unfortunately, even after serving time and paying fines, you aren’t completely in the clear. With a felony conviction on your record, there are consequences that could still affect you for many years to come.

For example:

  • A felony conviction can make finding a job more difficult. Some companies require a background check before they will offer you a job. If an employer conducts a background check and sees that you have a criminal record, you might not get chosen for that position.
  • A felony conviction can make it harder to find housing. Landlords conduct background checks on most prospective tenants. They could deny your rental application if they see criminal history on your record. Mortgage companies could also deny your application for a home loan.
  • A felony conviction can affect child custody. If you have a child and are fighting for custody, a criminal record could hurt your case. If a judge sees that you have a criminal record, they could rule against you.
  • A felony conviction can impact admission to a college. If you are applying to college for the first time or want to return to school to further your education, a criminal record could harm your chances of acceptance. When the admissions department sees that you have a felony on your record, they could deny your application.
  • A felony conviction can make it tougher to get a loan. If you apply for a personal loan or car loan, you could get denied. Many loan services deny loans because of criminal convictions, preventing you from getting the money you need to make necessary purchases.

These are just a few examples of ways that a criminal conviction could have a negative impact on your life. Having a criminal defense attorney represent you might give you a better chance of avoiding a conviction altogether.

Can I Get a Criminal Conviction Expunged?

In Phoenix, a person convicted of a crime cannot get their conviction fully expunged. Instead, they can get it set aside. After completing their sentence and paying fines, they would apply to the judge to have their conviction set aside.

There is a difference between an expungement and having a conviction set aside. An expungement completely erases the conviction from a person’s public record, meaning they won’t have to deal with the negative consequences of having a criminal conviction on their record.

Setting a conviction aside means the conviction stays on the person’s record for public protection, although the record will state a judge has set aside the conviction. When a conviction is set aside, this usually indicates that the person has been rehabilitated or that the court vacated a prior ruling.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help After a Criminal Trespassing Charge?

If you’re charged with criminal trespass in Phoenix, it’s usually difficult to defend yourself effectively on your own. Without knowing state laws that pertain to the crime or possible defenses, you could leave yourself in a vulnerable situation.

A criminal defense attorney can help in many ways, including:

  • Investigating the arrest: An attorney can review the police report and gather any evidence from your arrest. They can also ensure the police made the arrest lawfully and followed all procedures. Collecting evidence such as video surveillance or photographs is another important part of the investigation.
  • Building a defensive strategy: Your attorney can build a solid defense using the evidence found in their investigation. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you trespassed. Your attorney can argue that there isn’t enough proof to warrant the criminal trespass charge.
  • Providing support throughout the legal process: Going through criminal defense proceedings is a stressful and scary process. Criminal defense attorneys have been through them many times and can calm your fears by providing support and guidance.
  • Defending you in court: If the case goes to a trial, people who defend themselves have a far lower chance of winning than those with a criminal defense attorney on their side. An attorney can litigate on your behalf and provide solid evidence that you should be found not guilty.

Having a skilled defense team arguing your case could mean the difference between a criminal conviction and a verdict of not guilty. Your attorney will work to help you avoid a criminal conviction and all the future ramifications that come with it.

Should I Accept a Plea Deal?

After getting charged with criminal trespass, the prosecutors could offer you a plea deal. Sometimes a plea deal is in your best interests, while other times, it’s not. Every case is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determine if you should accept a plea deal. Before accepting any sort of plea deal, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney.

A criminal defense attorney can review the plea deal and determine if it’s the best option for you. They can also review the available evidence to see if the prosecution has a solid enough case to convict you at trial. If not, an attorney might recommend you take your chances and allow your case to be tried in court.

Working with an attorney who knows your story and has reviewed your case is usually the most effective way to avoid a conviction.

Contact a Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help With Trespassing Charges

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If you have received a criminal trespass charge or need more information about what criminal trespass in Phoenix is, reach out to a defense lawyer. Passionate and informed legal representation is the backbone of a good legal defense. Work with a top-rated criminal defense lawyer who can prepare a solid defense for you that can help you avoid or reduce charges or get a not guilty verdict and avoid a costly criminal conviction. Many lawyers offer free, no-obligation consultations to those facing criminal charges.