Georgia: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, dwellings, land, vehicles.
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor
- Fencing Required? No.
- Signage Required? Yes, if verbal notice is not given.
- Verbal Notice Required? Yes, if signage is not posted.
Georgia Trespassing Law Overview
Georgia is a state with streamlined, easy-to-understand laws governing trespass. Pretty much everything you need to know is contained within a single section of the state statutes.
The only thing worth noting on this is that causing damage to someone’s property up to a certain amount is classified as trespass also, not necessarily criminal damage to property.
But, property damage above a certain amount is counted as its own crime of criminal damage to property. Sound confusing? It isn’t, as I’ll show.
Because the way those two statutes are worded, it is possible for trespassing on certain public utilities and related buildings or infrastructure to potentially be construed as criminal damage to the property, versus just trespassing.
This is something of a special case, and those statutes will be included for completeness below after the statue of covering trespassing.
Relevant Georgia State Statutes
• Section 16-7-21 Criminal trespass
• Section 16-7-22 Criminal damage to property in the first degree
• Section 16-7-23 Criminal damage to property in the second degree
• Section 16-7-24 Interference with government property
Georgia omits a section for definitions for Article 2 under Chapter 7. It is presumed that all words have their normal and intended meaning.
So moving swiftly along into Section 16-7-21 we can find all the relevant laws about Criminal Trespass contained in one easy to digest section of modest length:
Section 16-7-21. Criminal trespass
(a) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she intentionally damages any property of another without consent of that other person and the damage thereto is $500.00 or less or knowingly and maliciously interferes with the possession or use of the property of another person without consent of that person.
(b) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she knowingly and without authority:
(1) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person for an unlawful purpose;
(2) Enters upon the land or premises of another person or into any part of any vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person after receiving, prior to such entry, notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant that such entry is forbidden; or
(3) Remains upon the land or premises of another person or within the vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft of another person after receiving notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant to depart.
(c) For the purposes of subsection (b) of this Code section, permission to enter or invitation to enter given by a minor who is or is not present on or in the property of the minor’s parent or guardian is not sufficient to allow lawful entry of another person upon the land, premises, vehicle, railroad car, aircraft, or watercraft owned or rightfully occupied by such minor’s parent or guardian if such parent or guardian has previously given notice that such entry is forbidden or notice to depart.
(d) A person who commits the offense of criminal trespass shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(e) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass when he or she intentionally defaces, mutilates, or defiles any grave marker, monument, or memorial to one or more deceased persons who served in the military service of this state, the United States of America or any of the states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or any of the states thereof, or a monument, plaque, marker, or memorial which is dedicated to, honors, or recounts the military service of any past or present military personnel of this state, the United States of America or any of the states thereof, or the Confederate States of America or any of the states thereof if such grave marker, monument, memorial, plaque, or marker is privately owned or located on land which is privately owned.
In Georgia, you don’t just have to trespass to get tagged with a criminal trespassing charge.
Intentionally damaging someone else’s property to the tune of $500 or less will also incur a criminal trespass charge. We will expound on that more in just a little bit.
From there, Georgia defines criminal trespass as knowingly entering the property or conveyance of someone else with the intention of committing a crime, whether or not you have a right to be there.
An important distinction that some other states sometimes overlook.
Additionally, criminal trespassing is, as you might expect, entering the property or conveyance of another person after being notified that such entry is forbidden.
This could take the form of verbal notification, posted signs or something similar that debars entry to those who have not been otherwise authorized.
If someone has been given permission to be on the property of someone else, but the owner or the owners authorized agent revokes that permission and tells the person to depart and they remain instead they will also be charged with criminal trespass.
There is no grace period or anything similar if the owner gave you permission and then revokes it. If they say go, you gotta go.
Lastly, in another instance of criminal mischief and damage of property being classified as criminal trespassing in the state of Georgia, anyone who intentionally vandalizes a grave marker, monument, plaque or some similar edifice that is a monument to any member of the U.S. military or Confederate States of America military is guilty of criminal trespass.
Anyone who commits the offense of criminal trespass is guilty of a misdemeanor with all attendant punishments.
That is the entirety of Georgia’s statutes regarding criminal trespassing, but as I mentioned above, there are a couple of additional statutes covering criminal damage to property in the first and second degrees that you probably want to be aware of as far as trespassing is concerned.
The reason for this is the way that the statutes are worded. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the first one below, but, briefly, it states that if one were to interfere with the operation of any public utility system that person will be charged with criminal damage to property.
That makes sense, but it is not out of the question that merely trespassing in one of those facilities could constitute interference with the operation of those facilities and their utilities they provide or the duties of the people manning them.
You definitely don’t want to take any chances with this because both of those crimes carry the potential of lengthy prison sentences.
The first section I’m referencing is 16-7-22:
6-7-22. Criminal damage to property in the first degree
a) A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the first degree when he:
(1) Knowingly and without authority interferes with any property in a manner so as to endanger human life; or
(2) Knowingly and without authority and by force or violence interferes with the operation of any system of public communication, public transportation, sewerage, drainage, water supply, gas, power, or other public utility service or with any constituent property thereof.
(b) A person convicted of the offense of criminal damage to property in the first degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.
The second passage covering a related crime to trespassing is in 16-7-23.
The statute makes it clear that the only difference between criminal damage to property in the second degree and criminal trespassing is the monetary amount of damage caused:
16-7-23. Criminal damage to property in the second degree
(a) A person commits the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree when he:
(1) Intentionally damages any property of another person without his consent and the damage thereto exceeds $500.00; or
(2) Recklessly or intentionally, by means of fire or explosive, damages property of another person.
(b) A person convicted of the offense of criminal damage to property in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
If a trespasser causes damage in the state of Georgia, the difference of only a few dollars can make a big difference in what crime they are charged with.
Again, this is something of an oddity as far as trespassing laws are concerned, but the two are too closely related to ignore if one wants a thorough understanding of trespass law in Georgia.
The last related law is in section 16-7-24, which is another charge all its own but one where simple trespass in the wrong place could net you a serious punishment thanks to how the statute is worded again:
16-7-24. Interference with government property
(a) A person commits the offense of interference with government property when he destroys, damages, or defaces government property and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
(b) A person commits the offense of interference with government property when he forcibly interferes with or obstructs the passage into or from government property and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as for a misdemeanor.
Georgia is another state with very clear, short and simple to understand laws covering trespassing.
If you knowingly enter a place you have no lawful right to be after being notified that you cannot be there, that is trespassing.
If you remain in a place you have no lawful right to be after being told to leave, that is trespassing.
Most interestingly of all, if you damage someone else’s property to the tune of $500 or less, that is also considered criminal trespassing.
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.
4 thoughts on “Georgia Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know”
Anyone can post a no trespassing sign. What if a neighbor decides to post a sign and they have no right to do so? Esp where a hiking path is located…? How can you tell the difference?
It’s simple. If it is on their property then you can’t go there if it is posted or if you’ve been warned by the property owner, regardless of a path. It’s private property if it is owned by a person. If the path passes through on other property such as the Army Corp of Engineers around lake Lanier and those paths then that is not private property and thus not trespassing. Check a map platt to see property lines.
Is there a minimum distance from a no hunting sign a hunter must be, other than the private land being marked?
Someone has said 100 feet from the sign, even though it’s the hunters property.
If a short term rental host has his guests trespassing on a neighbor’s property, even when there are No Trespassing signs posted, is the host liable or his guests?