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.
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.
7 thoughts on “Arizona Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know”
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.