Looking at Civil and Criminal Trespass

While the phrase "forgive us our trespasses" if oft repeated, it is important to note that trespassing is generally not forgiven. This is because trespassing is often a very serious offense that the law does not look lightly upon. However, many assume that trespassing is "no big deal". One reason for this is that media depictions of individuals with "No Trespassing" signs are that of curmudgeonly, miserly individuals who embody a whole host of misanthropic traits. Often, the conclusion of a feature will see such an individual learning the error of his ways and removing the no trespassing sign.

Depictions such as this are psychologically damaging because they demean the importance of trespassing laws. These laws are there for very good reasons. When a person enters into restricted territory a great safety risk is posed to both the trespasser and the person on the property. Again, that is why trespassing laws exist and that is why they must always be taken seriously.

By definition, criminal trespass is the instance of willfully entering and remaining unlawfully in an enclosed dwelling such as a home or business; willful entering or remaining in an enclosed and restricted area that is obviously designed to exclude unauthorized entry; entering any property (enclosed or open) when the property owner has explicitly told the individual they are not welcome on the property. It is important to note, however, if an individual is unaware that entry to an area is restricted then he might be exonerated of criminal trespass.

Civil trespassing lawsuits are generally brought forth when property damage has occurred. Actually, the laws surrounding civil trespass laws are fairly all encompassing. There is precedent for civil trespass actions to be taken against those liable for car accidents. (For a more detailed explanation as to whether or not a potential civil suit falls under the category of trespassing, it would be best to discuss the specifics of the case with an attorney) In terms of civil liability, a person who commits trespass may be held liable for damages that have been inflicted as a result of the trespass. Therefore, the trespasser may be sued for damages. Actually, the trespasser can be both criminally charged and sued in civil court.

It is also important to point out that the criminal prosecution and civil litigation of trespass, like many other criminal and civil offenses, is subject to the statute of limitations defined by the Pennsylvania judicial code. Specifically, the law states that the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil trespassing is two years.