Trespassing is usually thought of as a pretty minor infraction, but can actually be a serious crime with an associated serious fine.
In fact, getting a trespassing prosecution could result in the trespasser having to pay many thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, certain instances of trespassing are barely classified as crimes at all, and the fee might only be $25 or so. So, how much is the fine for trespassing really?
Trespassing fines depend on the category of trespassing and the state that the offense occurred in. Serious grades of trespassing can entail fines of $2,500 to $5,000. Less serious offenses may incur a fee of $100 to $1,000. It all depends.
There’s actually a surprising amount of variability when it comes to the fees associated with trespassing.
For minor offenses by first-time offenders in certain states, someone might only have to cough up $25 bucks. You can barely buy lunch on that!
But the financial penalties for serious offenses in some areas can be many thousands of dollars. There’s a lot to know on the subject of trespassing fines, so keep reading and I’ll tell you more…
Fines Will Vary from State to State
The first thing you need to know about trespassing fines is that they do vary from state to state. There is no set schedule that’s applicable nationwide.
Getting charged with criminal trespass of agricultural land in Texas and then charged with the same crime in Idaho, for instance, might mean totally different financial punishments.
It really does completely depend on where you are, and a thorough listing of the different fees for the different categories of trespassing from state to state would be a humongous article or series of articles in itself.
But you can easily find out what the financial penalties are for trespassing in your state by checking the state statutes.
Some Kinds of Trespassing are Just Infractions and Entail Small Fines Only
But let us start at the low end of the spectrum so people know what to expect. The simplest and least serious types of trespassing are usually graded as infractions.
An infraction is a lot like a traffic ticket; barely a “crime” at all, or as some people like to say legal for a price! I wouldn’t go that far, but they are not far off the mark.
Generally, trespassing on unposted and unenclosed vacant land is considered the least serious and most forgivable kind of trespassing. In some states it isn’t even a crime!
But in the states where this is a crime, it usually entails only a $25 to $50 penalty, sometimes $100.
This of course is absent any other damages that might have been tallied against the property owner by the trespasser. Someone that trespassed, in this instance, could very literally pay that fine and be on their way, no lengthy court case required.
Most Kinds of Trespassing are Misdemeanors and Entail Serious Fines
Most kinds of trespassing, though, are misdemeanors, and though most people don’t think of a misdemeanor as a particularly serious crime, it definitely can be. This means the punishments, including the fees, can be substantial.
For instance, criminal trespass in the third degree, which usually entails trespassing on unimproved land that is marked with paint or posted with signs in accordance with state law for trespassing, can be a misdemeanor charge on the first instance.
If someone were to be charged accordingly, they could be facing a fine ranging anywhere from $250 all the way up to, potentially, $2,500.
That’s a big range, and getting up into the four-figure mark is definitely painful!
Felony Trespassing Means Major Fines
And as you might expect, felony trespassing charges mean major penalties and among them major fines.
Catching a felony trespassing charge in any state will almost always mean a huge fine, typically no less than several thousand dollars with many clearing the $5,000 mark.
Felony-level trespassing is also quite variable from state to state, but it usually entails trespassing egregiously in defiance of notice, barricades or signage, repeat offenses, trespassing in buildings that are suitable for habitation and other substantial offenses.
Also, some of the most serious kinds of criminal trespassing are unlawfully entering restricted areas and sensitive installations, typically those owned by the state or any that are part of critical civic infrastructure.
Trespassing in a rail yard, airport restricted area, electrical substation or similar place might see you charged $25,000 or more depending on which state the crime takes place in.
Doing something seriously stupid like trespassing in a nuclear power plant will get you hammered with a major felony and potentially charged $100,000!
It doesn’t matter if you were even there to commit any other crime in these cases, even if that’s probably the case: if you are in any of these restricted areas or installations, for any reason, you’ll be looking at tremendous financial penalties.
Certain States Make Trespassing a “Wobbler”
Also make sure you read the fine print associated with your state’s statutes concerning trespassing.
There’s a type of charge that is popularly referred to as a “wobbler,” meaning they wobble from misdemeanor to felony and the back again according to the whims of the prosecutor or judge, depending. California is a state with a lot of crimes that are considered wobblers.
Looking at the totality of the circumstances and the individual, you might be hit with a misdemeanor trespassing charge and a relatively small fine, or you could be slapped with a felony trespassing charge for the exact same act and an accordingly massive fine.
It pays to know about this stuff not only for your own sake so you can stay safe and on the right side of the law during your adventures and travels, but also so you know precisely what’s at stake if you were forced to deal with a trespasser on your property.
Additional Fines Can Apply for Damages
Also remember this: even this generalized fee schedule is only the penalty for the crime of trespassing itself.
Other fines will apply for other crimes, and figure does not even including any damages that might have been inflicted during or because of the trespass!
It’s hardly out of the question for the net amount of penalties quoted to double or triple depending on the circumstances and the “loss” suffered by the property owner.
Misdemeanor and Felony Trespassing is also Punishable by Incarceration
I should also point out that trespassing, as I said, is a serious crime even in the case of misdemeanor trespass.
Incarceration is a possible punishment either in lieu of or in addition to a fine! Except in the cases of trespassing which is classified as an infraction and nothing more, someone will always be facing the possibility of jail or prison time.
Generally, misdemeanor trespass is punishable by up to or less than one year in county jail, whereas felony trespassing will get you sent to a state prison for any number of years. You definitely don’t want this to happen to you!
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.