blog Criminal Defense What Actually Is Trespassing in Colorado?

What Actually Is Trespassing in Colorado?

By Colorado Attorney-at-law on May 15, 2023

While trespassing is a serious offense, many people have misconceptions about what this crime actually entails and what the potential consequences are. The word “trespassing” is typically used as a blanket term to cover a wide range of actions, from hunting or fishing on someone else’s land to breaking and entering for the purpose of committing a crime. In Colorado, criminal trespass is charged in three different degrees, each with different consequences.

What Constitutes Trespassing in Colorado?

Trespassing in Colorado is unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else’s property. The three degrees of criminal trespass are:

Third degree trespass: Entering land belonging to someone else, such as taking a shortcut across someone else’s property. Criminal trespass is usually charged in the third degree when the property is not a dwelling, and the land is not fenced or enclosed.

Second degree trespass: Entering or remaining in a nonresidential building, fenced area, or any property belonging to another that is fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to exclude others. This crime includes knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining in the common areas of a hotel, motel, condominium, or apartment building or someone else’s motor vehicle.

First degree trespass: Entering or remaining in the home or vehicle of another without the consent of the owner and with the intent to commit a crime. Examples of first-degree criminal trespass include breaking into a home to commit burglary or assault and entering someone else’s vehicle to steal property inside.

What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Trespassing?

Many people are misinformed about the offense of trespassing. Common misconceptions include the following:

A person cannot be charged with trespassing if no sign was posted indicating that the property was private or closed to the public.

A person can only be charged with trespassing if he or she physically enters the property.

A person cannot be charged with trespassing if he or she was unaware of being on private property.

What Are the Penalties for Trespassing in Colorado?

Penalties upon conviction of criminal trespass depend on the degree of the charge:

Third-degree trespass is usually a petty offense that carries up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $300.

Second-degree trespass may be charged as a petty offense, with the same penalties as third-degree trespass, with certain exceptions. When it involves entering or remaining in the motor vehicle of another, it is a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and up to $750 in fines. If it involves trespassing on agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony, it is a class 4 felony that carries two to six years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.

First-degree trespass is typically a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 364 days and a fine of up to $1,000. Trespassing in an inhabited or occupied dwelling is a class 6 felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months and a fine of $1,000 to $100,000.

What Are the Legal Defenses Against Trespassing Charges?

Common legal defenses against charges of trespassing include the following:

  • You had the consent of the owner.
  • You entered the property to avoid serious physical harm.
  • You were on the property to avert a disaster or prevent public harm.
  • You entered as a public agent.
  • You were on the property to pursue a legal right, such as retrieving your own personal property.

If you are facing criminal trespass charges in Summit County, contact Whitaker & Penix, LLC at (970) 368-0602. Our experienced Breckenridge criminal defense attorneys can assert every legal defense that applies to your case.

Posted in: Criminal Defense