Understanding trespassing laws is essential for preppers. If you have a big or a small parcel somewhere you are using as a bug-out location, are living in the middle of a large expanse to keep away from people or planning on travelling cross-country “just in case” you need to know your rights and your responsibilities regarding land under the law.
Alabama: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, dwellings, vehicles, undeveloped land.
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor.
- Fencing Required?: No.
- Signage Required?: No, if verbal declaration made.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No, if signage posted.
Alabama Trespassing Law Overview
Alabama is pretty middle of the road when it comes to trespassing. Alabama state statutes spell out that a person cannot enter or remain in any building or on vacant land unless authorized to do so.
Authorization may be given to concerned parties by the owner of said land or structure or by a legally authorized representative.
It is important to note that even land that has not been developed a single speck is off-limits to trespassers under Alabama law, and no fencing or other feature is required to keep potential trespassers out, be they malicious or ignorant.
What is required though is communication of a no-trespass order by the owner of the property, either in the form of a verbal communication or posting of signage and in a conspicuous manner around the entrances of the property, if a structure, or around the perimeter of the property, if vacant land.
Relevant Alabama State Statutes
- Section 13A-7-1 Definitions
- Section 13A-7-2 Criminal Trespass in the first degree
- Section 13A-7-3 Criminal Trespass in the second degree
- Section 13A-7-4 Criminal Trespass in the third degree
- Section 13A-7-4.1 Criminal Trespass by motor vehicle
As is always the case when you’re examining the law, your States definitions make a big difference on the interpretation of the law as it is worded. The definitions relevant to Alabama’s trespass law are in 13a-7-1:
Article 1 – Burglary and Criminal Trespass. Section 13A-7-1 – Definitions.
The following definitions are applicable to this article:
(1) BUILDING. Any structure which may be entered and utilized by persons for business, public use, lodging or the storage of goods, and such term includes any vehicle, aircraft or watercraft used for the lodging of persons or carrying on business therein, and such term includes any railroad box car or other rail equipment or trailer or tractor trailer or combination thereof. Where a building consists of two or more units separately occupied or secure, each shall be deemed both a separate building and a part of the main building.
(2) DWELLING. A building which is used or normally used by a person for sleeping, living or lodging therein.
(3) ENTER OR REMAIN UNLAWFULLY. A person “enters or remains unlawfully” in or upon premises when he is not licensed, invited or privileged to do so. A person who, regardless of his intent, enters or remains in or upon premises which are at the time open to the public does so with license and privilege unless he defies a lawful order not to enter or remain, personally communicated to him by the owner of such premises or other authorized person. A license or privilege to enter or remain in a building which is partly open to the public is not a license or privilege to enter or remain in that part of the building which is not open to the public. A person who enters or remains upon unimproved and apparently unused land, which is neither fenced nor otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders, does so with license and privileges unless notice against trespass is personally communicated to him by the owner of such land or other authorized person, or unless such notice is given by posting in a conspicuous manner.
(4) POSTING IN A CONSPICUOUS MANNER. A sign or signs posted on the property, reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, indicating that entry is forbidden or the placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property, provided that the marks satisfy all of the following:
a. Are vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width.
b. Are placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet from the ground or more than five feet from the ground.
c. Are placed at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and are no more than 100 feet apart on forest land or 1,000 feet apart on land other than forest land.
(5) PREMISES. Such term includes any “building,” as herein defined, and any real property.
As you can see from the statutes above, a vehicle is considered a building for the purposes of trespassing and a person need not have any unlawful intent to be trespassing, and furthermore may still be trespassed by the owner of the property or the owner’s agent if they communicate such to the person in question. Additionally, if empty, unimproved land is not fenced or otherwise guarded against entry by some feature and does not have posted no-trespass signs according to the prescribed statutes in (4), then a person is legally considered to have permission and privilege until legally ordered off by the owner or owner’s agent.
The penalty schedule for entering various kinds of property in various ways is below in sections 13A-7-2 through 13A-7-4:
Article 1 – Burglary and Criminal Trespass. Section 13A-7-2 – Criminal trespass in the first degree.
Criminal trespass in the first degree.
(a) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling.
(b) Criminal trespass in the first degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
Article 1 – Burglary and Criminal Trespass. Section 13A-7-3 – Criminal trespass in the second degree.
Criminal trespass in the second degree.
(a) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon real property which is fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders.
(b) Criminal trespass in the second degree is a Class C misdemeanor.
Article 1 – Burglary and Criminal Trespass. Section 13A-7-4 – Criminal trespass in the third degree.
Criminal trespass in the third degree.
(a) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.
(b) Criminal trespass in the third degree is a violation.
Trespassing is a misdemeanor in Alabama, but the severity of the crime increases if one trespasses on otherwise secured property or in a dwelling.
Trespassing is only a misdemeanor in Alabama but may still net serious charges if someone does so in a home or secured property.
Interestingly, a lack of signage on undeveloped land is considered lawful permission to be on the property if it is otherwise unguarded and you haven’t been told off otherwise.