Fast Facts on Trespassing:
- Trespass Law Covers: Structures, dwellings, vehicles, enclosed/fenced land
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor or Felony
- Fencing Required? Yes, for land.
- Signage Required? Yes, if no verbal notice given.
- Verbal Notice Required? Not required in some instances.
Arizona Trespassing Law Overview
Arizona trespass law is interesting. It makes no accommodation for unfenced or otherwise unenclosed land that is undeveloped and unoccupied, but also defines as trespassing some crimes you would not normally expect, like being a peeping tom, or destroying and defacing religious iconography.
Arizona trespass law is also notable for classifying the most severe categories of trespassing as felonies, which opens up some interesting connotations for self-defense considerations.
Arizona law is also extremely verbose with definitions and most statutes. We’ll get into the works just below!
Relevant Arizona State Statutes
- Section 13-1501 Definitions
- Section 13-1502 Criminal trespass in the third degree; classification
- Section 13-1503 Criminal trespass in the second degree; classification
- Section 13-1504 Criminal trespass in the first degree; classification
You don’t know the law if you don’t know the definitions of the words used in the statutes!
Even commonplace words might hold hidden or otherwise unexpected meaning, so it pays to always read the definitions before the rest of a passage.
Arizona’s definitions in this section alone seem to go on forever so I will include only the most pertinent below. Make sure you read the rest of them!
Title 13 – Criminal Code § 13-1501 Definitions
In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
2. ” Enter or remain unlawfully” means an act of a person who enters or remains on premises when the person’s intent for so entering or remaining is not licensed, authorized or otherwise privileged except when the entry is to commit theft of merchandise displayed for sale during normal business hours, when the premises are open to the public and when the person does not enter any unauthorized areas of the premises.
3. ” Entry” means the intrusion of any part of any instrument or any part of a person’s body inside the external boundaries of a structure or unit of real property.
5. ” Fenced residential yard” means a unit of real property that immediately surrounds or is adjacent to a residential structure and that is enclosed by a fence, wall, building or similar barrier or any combination of fences, walls, buildings or similar barriers.
6. ” Fenced yard” means a unit of real property that is surrounded by fences, walls, buildings or similar barriers or any combination of fences, walls, buildings or similar barriers.
10. ” Nonresidential structure” means any structure other than a residential structure and includes a retail establishment.
11. ” Residential structure” means any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, that is adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not.
12. ” Structure” means any device that accepts electronic or physical currency and that is used to conduct commercial transactions, any vending machine or any building, object, vehicle, railroad car or place with sides and a floor that is separately securable from any other structure attached to it and that is used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage.
The above definitions are clear enough on their own, but the most important takeaway is that there is no legal definition for unenclosed vacant land! Fenced commercial yards and land, yes.
Fenced and enclosed residential land, yes. But not open, vacant land. That means you cannot be found trespassing automatically by being on vacant land unless “reasonable notice has been posted.” More on that below.
Sections 13-1502, 13-1503 and 13-1504 lay out the penalty schedule for trespass. Each is listed below. I’ll offer my thoughts after the break.
Title 13 – Criminal Code § 13-1502 Criminal trespass in the third degree; classification
13-1502. Criminal trespass in the third degree; classification
A. A person commits criminal trespass in the third degree by:
1. Knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully on any real property after a reasonable request to leave by a law enforcement officer, the owner or any other person having lawful control over such property, or reasonable notice prohibiting entry.
2. Knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully on the right-of-way for tracks, or the storage or switching yards or rolling stock of a railroad company.
B. Pursuant to subsection A, paragraph 1 of this section, a request to leave by a law enforcement officer acting at the request of the owner of the property or any other person having lawful control over the property has the same legal effect as a request made by the property owner or other person having lawful control of the property.
C. Criminal trespass in the third degree is a class 3 misdemeanor.
Title 13 – Criminal Code § 13-1503 Criminal trespass in the second degree; classification
13-1503. Criminal trespass in the second degree; classification
A. A person commits criminal trespass in the second degree by knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully in or on any nonresidential structure or in any fenced commercial yard.
B. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Title 13 – Criminal Code § 13-1504 Criminal trespass in the first degree; classification
13-1504. Criminal trespass in the first degree; classification
A. A person commits criminal trespass in the first degree by knowingly:
1. Entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a residential structure.
2. Entering or remaining unlawfully in a fenced residential yard.
3. Entering any residential yard and, without lawful authority, looking into the residential structure thereon in reckless disregard of infringing on the inhabitant’s right of privacy.
4. Entering unlawfully on real property that is subject to a valid mineral claim or lease with the intent to hold, work, take or explore for minerals on the claim or lease.
5. Entering or remaining unlawfully on the property of another and burning, defacing, mutilating or otherwise desecrating a religious symbol or other religious property of another without the express permission of the owner of the property.
Entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a critical public service facility.
B. Criminal trespass in the first degree under subsection A, paragraph 6 of this section is a class 5 felony. Criminal trespass in the first degree under subsection A, paragraph 1 or 5 of this section is a class 6 felony. Criminal trespass in the first degree under subsection A, paragraph 2, 3 or 4 of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor.
As you can see from the above, Arizona does classify some first degree criminal trespassing as felonious, specifically trespassing within a critical public service facility, a residential structure (dwelling) or by defacing or destroying religious iconography.
How to Obtain a Trespassing Order in Arizona
To get an order of no trespass in Arizona, which might alternately be called a trespass restraining order, you’ll need to have your property properly posted against trespassing, or directly notify the trespasser in writing, preferably via a registered letter with proof and confirmation of delivery.
Once that is done, go to your local district attorney’s office, or if that isn’t possible to your local police department or sheriff’s department to file the necessary paperwork. Keep in mind that an order of no trespass is typically temporary and must be renewed eventually.
Rules for Posting No-Trespassing Signs in Arizona
Arizona does not have any specific definitions for posting no-trespassing signage, making mention in the statutes only of trespassing and defiance of a “reasonable notice prohibiting entry.” Accordingly, any conventional and conspicuously posted no-trespassing sign should be sufficient for protecting land or other property.
Arizona is a state that does not have extensive legal protection against trespassing on open, unenclosed vacant land, but goes out of its way to define and codify trespassing on every other kind of private and public property.
It also schedules certain kinds of serious criminal trespassing as felonies.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.