Arizona Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

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.
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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.

Conclusion

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.

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13 thoughts on “Arizona Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know”

  1. If a person is trespassed from a Fry’s Grocery Store, a store which has a non physically connected to the main building, and in their general parking lot, a gas station for purchase, is that area included in the no trespass as well as the main store?

  2. Mohave County.
    Open Lot of near 40 acres.
    7 no trespassing signs along sides of property.
    30′ solar lighted flag pole with American flag, 100′ inside property lines and no trespassing sign on pole.
    All taken out inside of 2 weeks of being put in by someone(s).

    Am I correct in my understanding, I have no source of legal rights?

  3. Confused: What is the difference between A.R.S. 13-1502 A1 Versus A.R.S. 13-1502?
    Most sign I see only have A.R.S. 13-1502 on the bottom, so why is A.R.S. 13-1502 A1 even mentioned. In addition, it seems the sign must also be in Spanish, but most of the signs only state Private Property No Trespassing (in English). I certainly don’t wish to purchase a sign only to learn that it actually didn’t conform to Arizona Statutes when I could have purchased a $5.00 sign at Ace Hardware or Home Depot.

  4. I noticed that, too, that without some sort of structure = not trespassing. Time to build a $50 shed.

    Also, this article does not mention the specifics of the ‘no trespassing’ wordage on the sign, distance apart, locations, etc.

    A.R.S. §13-1502

  5. We allow foot and horseback access to the National Forest along well-marked trails on our land and post frequent no trespassing and other signs warning people to stay on the marked trails, but riders from an adjacent riding club routinely leave the designated trails creating miles of unauthorized paths. I have frequently asked, verbally and in writing, the club’s officers to ensure that their members stay on the designated trails. Nonetheless, two weeks ago dozens of riders left the designated trail creating more than a mile of new paths, trampling the vegetation and creating erosion risk on steep hillsides. What does Az law say about leaving designated paths?

  6. I was given a do not trespass from a non-profit ( a church) I attended. I did nothing wrong, did not in any way cause any outlandish behavior during the service. The man in charge called me into his office threatening and demanding, then called me a “witch” and asked me to leave.
    He called the police saying he knew the some cops and I would be spending the night in jail. Can a nonprofit trespass people?

    1. Yes, Rose. It is still a private place of business and you were asked to leave and never return. Not only is this a valid tresspassing case, it is a 3rd degree tresspassing case and is eligible for jail time.
      501c3 status has NOTHING to do with it. Ignorance of the law is not a defense either. It sounds as if your intention is to harass this business based upon its religious beliefs, which is also a felony charge. It also sounds like this isn’t your first foray into harassing religious institutions.
      Learn your law first. You’re racking up quite the rap sheet already. I would think you’d have something better to do with your time.

  7. Great article. I am curious. If the owner of an investment home in Arizona, who can demonstrate to police she clearly owns the residence, discovers a squatter who broke into the home by breaking a door lock and who has no valid claim for adverse possession and no lease or license to occupy the premises and the squatter refuses to leave after the owner has demanded that they leave, then would police enforce any of the Arizona trespass statutes? Assume the squatter states they have been living in home for several months. The owner states it is an investment property that they have not abandoned and have been waiting for permits required to make major improvements.

  8. I have a walkway on the side of my house with a wall to keep a bank from eroding into the walkway. There is an easement next to that with a tree on it. My neighbor keeps coming onto my property to move my hose. She frequently empties the water I put out for birds and draws the hose over cactus. Do I have to put a gate on my walkway and does it need a lock to prevent her from doing this? I have told her several times to stay off my property.

  9. can a homeowner in Pima County, AZ post a “Private Property, No Trespassing” sign on a hiking trail recognized by the County on his land? Also, can a hiker who uses the trail be arrested?

  10. I was doing some mystery shopping assignment in southern AZ got completely lost and wound up close to the border I was pulled lever by border patrol and they pretty much told me I was a liar and that I was trying to smuggle people into the country they of course let me go but they contacted the police who then pulled me over a few miles north as I was heading back in the right direction and they cop got all my information and told me I was criminally trespassing because it is tribal land (there is no signs at all ) I was given a warning for criminal trespassing and it’s been bugging me because I did nothing wrong I didn’t even get out of my vehicle isn’t that what the checkpoints are for? Is this a valid charge for what I did? I can’t find any information on how it works on tribal land online at all hoping you can help or at least point me in the right direction? Thx

  11. interesting. with the border problem, may see unwanted individuals on property. it is walled. my concern is lethal force against such intrusion. I’m getting signage in English and Spanish according to law every 30 feet on entrance gate too. would i be in legal trouble? May not be active trouble but to keep from having trouble.

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