Illinois: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Land, Structures, Dwellings, Vehicles
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor. Felony for repeated trespass onto state supported property.
- Fencing Required?: No, if markers/signage posted.
- Signage Required?:Yes, generally.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No.
Illinois Trespassing Law Overview
Illinois is well known for being a state that absolutely loves its laws. They have laws for everything, laws upon laws upon laws. But that notwithstanding, you might be surprised to learn that Illinois laws on trespassing are actually fairly straightforward and easy to understand, with no major surprises hiding within the state statutes.
The only thing that Illinois has against it is that their actual state statutes are arranged in extremely dense, difficult to navigate and wordy wall-of-text fashion instead of the clear, concise and often bite-sized sections and chapters of other states.
I cannot stress enough just how lengthy the primary statutes covering trespassing are. But, this is merely a trifling concern. I will be breaking down all of Illinois trespassing laws for easy understanding just below.
Relevant Illinois State Statutes
- 720 ILCS 5/21-2 Criminal Trespass to Vehicles
- 720 ILCS 5/21-3 Criminal Trespass against Property
- 720 ILCS 5/21-5 Criminal Trespass to State Supported Land
- 720 ILCS 5/21-5.5 Criminal Trespass to School Safe Zone
- 720 ILCS 5/21-7 Criminal Trespass to restricted areas and restricted landing areas at airports
- 720 ILCS 5/21-8 Criminal Trespass to a Nuclear Facility
- 720 ILCS 5/21-9 Criminal Trespass to a Place of Public Amusement
Normally we would begin one of these trespassing law review articles with the definitions, since they are so vital to a complete and holistic understanding of a state’s laws as written. But in the case of Illinois’s laws, the definitions are sprinkled throughout the various sections instead of having their own dedicated one.
The primary section also happens to be very long, so in the interest of making it easy to digest and understand, as well as making it a little less painful on you, the reader, I will be posting only the most relevant parts of the law for the average individual.
Remember that it is entirely your responsibility to read and understand the law in full as it is written in your area!
I will also be interjecting my commentary throughout the exact text of the section and I hope that this will make it a little more digestible. My commentary will be featured after every break symbol.
So with that out of the way, we begin with the largest of the sections, 720 ILCS 5/21-3 Criminal Trespass against Property and its attendant definitions:
Sec. 21-3. Criminal trespass to real property
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to real property when he or she:
(1) knowingly and without lawful authority enters or remains within or on a building;
(2) enters upon the land of another, after receiving, prior to the entry, notice from the owner or occupant that the entry is forbidden;
(3) remains upon the land of another, after receiving notice from the owner or occupant to depart;
(3.5) presents false documents or falsely represents his or her identity orally to the owner or occupant of a building or land in order to obtain permission from the owner or occupant to enter or remain in the building or on the land;
(3.7) intentionally removes a notice posted on residential real estate as required by subsection (l) of Section 15-1505.8 of Article XV of the Code of Civil Procedure before the date and time set forth in the notice; or
(4) enters a field used or capable of being used for growing crops, an enclosed area containing livestock, an agricultural building containing livestock, or an orchard in or on a motor vehicle (including an off-road vehicle, motorcycle, moped, or any other powered two-wheel vehicle) after receiving, prior to the entry, notice from the owner or occupant that the entry is forbidden or remains upon or in the area after receiving notice from the owner or occupant to depart.
For purposes of item (1) of this subsection, this Section shall not apply to being in a building which is open to the public while the building is open to the public during its normal hours of operation; nor shall this Section apply to a person who enters a public building under the reasonable belief that the building is still open to the public.
(b) A person has received notice from the owner or occupant within the meaning of Subsection (a) if he or she has been notified personally, either orally or in writing including a valid court order as defined by subsection (7) of Section 112A-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 granting remedy (2) of subsection (b) of Section 112A-14 of that Code, or if a printed or written notice forbidding such entry has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at the main entrance to the land or the forbidden part thereof.
So far, so good. If someone knowingly and without lawful authority enters or remains inside a building or upon the land of another person after receiving notice that such entry is forbidden, that is criminal trespassing.
Additionally, presenting false documentation or misrepresenting their identity or lying to the owner or any occupant of that building or land in order to duplicitously obtain permission to enter is in itself criminal trespass.
This condition also applies to any motor vehicle of any kind and also public buildings, but does not apply to public buildings or buildings open to the public during normal hours of operation.
Additionally, the statute states clearly that the law will not apply to someone who enters a public building under a reasonable belief that the building remains open to the public at that time.
(b-5) Subject to the provisions of subsection (b-10), as an alternative to the posting of real property as set forth in subsection (b), the owner or lessee of any real property may post the property by placing identifying purple marks on trees or posts around the area to be posted. Each purple mark shall be:
(1) A vertical line of at least 8 inches in length and the bottom of the mark shall be no less than 3 feet nor more than 5 feet high. Such marks shall be placed no more than 100 feet apart and shall be readily visible to any person approaching the property; or
(2) A post capped or otherwise marked on at least its top 2 inches. The bottom of the cap or mark shall be not less than 3 feet but not more than 5 feet 6 inches high. Posts so marked shall be placed not more than 36 feet apart and shall be readily visible to any person approaching the property. Prior to applying a cap or mark which is visible from both sides of a fence shared by different property owners or lessees, all such owners or lessees shall concur in the decision to post their own property.
Section b-5 through subsections 1 and 2 lay out the standards by which a property must be marked for it to have the force of law if posted with a “no trespassing” warning.
Illinois is one of those states, naturally, where you cannot just put up any “no trespassing” sign you want willy-nilly. The markings must adhere to a rigid set of standards, specifically size, spacing, color and arrangement.
(d) A person shall be exempt from prosecution under this Section if he or she beautifies unoccupied and abandoned residential and industrial properties located within any municipality. For the purpose of this subsection, “unoccupied and abandoned residential and industrial property” means any real estate (1) in which the taxes have not been paid for a period of at least 2 years; and (2) which has been left unoccupied and abandoned for a period of at least one year; and “beautifies” means to landscape, clean up litter, or to repair dilapidated conditions on or to board up windows and doors.
(e) No person shall be liable in any civil action for money damages to the owner of unoccupied and abandoned residential and industrial property which that person beautifies pursuant to subsection (d) of this Section.
(f) This Section does not prohibit a person from entering a building or upon the land of another for emergency purposes. For purposes of this subsection (f), “emergency” means a condition or circumstance in which an individual is or is reasonably believed by the person to be in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or in which property is or is reasonably believed to be in imminent danger of damage or destruction.
(g) Paragraph (3.5) of subsection (a) does not apply to a peace officer or other official of a unit of government who enters a building or land in the performance of his or her official duties.
These are some interesting couple of sections of the law…
In Illinois, people are exempt from prosecution under the entirety of this section if they are trespassing only with the intent of beautifying an unoccupied and abandoned residential or industrial property located within any municipality, in which case they are not trespassing at all!
“Abandoned” of course must meet the state’s definition of abandoned, and furthermore the property cannot be occupied, even illegally, but if that is not the case you are allowed to in fact trespass on the property in order to tidy up the landscape, pick up trash, board up windows and so forth.
In essence, this might give someone permission to beautify an abandoned property in an effort to keep it from dragging local property values down.
Also just as interesting is that the charge of criminal trespass is waived if a person otherwise illegally enters a property or remains on it if they have a reasonable belief that they are in imminent danger of suffering great bodily harm or death.
So, plainly spoken, if someone has to barge into a property or traipse across land that does not belong to them in order to escape serious harm, then the charge of criminal trespass does not apply.
(h) Sentence. A violation of subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3), or (a)(3.5) is a Class B misdemeanor. A violation of subdivision (a)(4) is a Class A misdemeanor.
“Land” includes, but is not limited to, land used for crop land, fallow land, orchard, pasture, feed lot, timber land, prairie land, mine spoil nature preserves and registered areas. “Land” does not include driveways or private roadways upon which the owner allows the public to drive.
“Owner” means the person who has the right to possession of the land, including the owner, operator or tenant.
“Vehicle” has the same meaning as provided under Section 1-217 of the Illinois Vehicle Code.
Any form of criminal trespassing under the auspices of this section constitutes a Class B or Class A misdemeanor in the state of Illinois.
The next section actually comes before the one we just covered as the state statutes are written, but since it was so foundational to the rest of the state’s criminal trespass laws I decided to cover it first. The section we are about to cover, 720 ILCS 5/21-2, is very brief and only covers vehicles:
Sec. 21-2. Criminal trespass to vehicles.
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to vehicles when he or she knowingly and without authority enters any part of or operates any vehicle, aircraft, watercraft or snowmobile.
(b) Sentence. Criminal trespass to vehicles is a Class A misdemeanor.
It really does not get any simpler than that. A person who knowingly and without authority enters or operates any part of a ground vehicle, aircraft, waterborne craft or snowmobile is guilty of criminal trespass to a vehicle and will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
The next section is deeper, but not quite as lengthy as the first one we covered. Section 720 ILCS 5/21-5 covers trespassing on state supported lands:
Sec. 21-5. Criminal trespass to State supported land.
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to State supported land when he or she enters upon land supported in whole or in part with State funds, or federal funds administered or granted through State agencies or any building on the land, after receiving, prior to the entry, notice from the State or its representative that the entry is forbidden, or remains upon the land or in the building after receiving notice from the State or its representative to depart, and who thereby interferes with another person’s lawful use or enjoyment of the building or land.
A person has received notice from the State within the meaning of this subsection if he or she has been notified personally, either orally or in writing, or if a printed or written notice forbidding entry to him or her or a group of which he or she is a part, has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at the main entrance to the land or the forbidden part thereof.
(a-5) A person commits criminal trespass to State supported land when he or she enters upon a right of way, including facilities and improvements thereon, owned, leased, or otherwise used by a public body or district organized under the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act, the Local Mass Transit District Act, or the Regional Transportation Authority Act, after receiving, prior to the entry, notice from the public body or district, or its representative, that the entry is forbidden, or the person remains upon the right of way after receiving notice from the public body or district, …
(c) Sentence. Criminal trespass to State supported land is a Class A misdemeanor, except a violation of subsection (a-5) of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor for a first violation and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent violation.
While the section is highly repetitive the content is pretty straightforward.
A person who enters or remains upon any state supported lands, which could be funded by Illinois state or federal funds, after being notified verbally, in writing or by posted notice that their entry or entry by a group that they are a part of is forbidden is committing criminal trespass against state-supported land.
This also applies to the great majority of state and metro area transit authority properties, either owned or leased. Additionally, engaging in any action, activity or any other act that will delay transit services by 15 minutes or longer constitutes criminal trespass against state-funded land.
Doing so is a misdemeanor, but this section is notable in that its penalty schedule upgrades on the second and all subsequent violations to a Class 4 felony.
The next section covers criminal trespass against a school safe zone:
Sec. 21-5.5. Criminal trespass to a safe school zone.
(a) As used in this Section:
“Safe school zone” means an area that encompasses any of the following places during regular school hours or within 60 minutes before or after the school day or 60 minutes before or after a school-sponsored activity. This shall include any school property, ground, or street, sidewalk, or public way immediately adjacent thereto and any public right-of-way situated immediately adjacent to school property. The safe school zone shall not include any portion of the highway not actually on school property.
“School activity” means and includes any school session, any extracurricular activity or event sponsored by or participated in by the school, and the 60-minute periods immediately preceding and following any session, activity, or event.
(b) A person commits the offense of criminal trespass to a safe school zone when he or she knowingly:
(2) enters or remains in a safe school zone without lawful business, once being served either in person or by registered or certified mail that his or her presence has been withdrawn by the school administrator, or his or her designee, and whose presence or acts interfere with, or whenever there is reasonable suspicion to believe, such person will disrupt the orderly operation, or the safety, or peaceful conduct of the school or school activities.
(c) Sentence. Criminal trespass to a safe school zone is a Class A misdemeanor.
You cannot enter or remain upon any school property once you have been notified by the state or the school in writing that you cannot enter or shall stay away or once school personnel (“administrators”) have told you to leave or notified you in writing via personal letter, notification or by posted notice.
Choosing to go against this proscription is a Class A misdemeanor.
There is more to come on the subject of trespassing in specially restricted areas in the very next section:
Sec. 21-7. Criminal trespass to restricted areas and restricted landing areas at airports.
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to restricted areas and restricted landing areas at airports when he or she enters upon, or remains in, any:
(1) restricted area or restricted landing area used in connection with an airport facility, or part thereof, in this State, after the person has received notice from the airport authority that the entry is forbidden;
(2) restricted area or restricted landing area used in connection with an airport facility, or part thereof, in this State by presenting false documents or falsely representing his or her identity orally to the airport authority;
(c) Notice that the area is “restricted” and entry thereto “forbidden”, for purposes of this Section, means that the person or persons have been notified personally, either orally or in writing, or by a printed or written notice forbidding the entry to him or her or a group or an organization of which he or she is a member, which has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at every usable entrance to the area or the forbidden part thereof.
(1) A violation of paragraph (2) of subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) A violation of paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection (a) is a Class 4 felony.
(3) A violation of subsection (b) is a Class 3 felony.
As might be expected, trespassing at an airport into any restricted area which is marked is a very bad idea, and doing so under false pretenses can actually net you a felony.
A few other parts of this section that I abridged in the interest of brevity go into more detail about trespassing while actually impersonating a staff member of the airport or a crew of an aircraft, as well as the illegal carrying of weapons on airport property.
This is still construed as criminal trespass, and since criminal trespass according to the law above is certainly a necessary subset of any of the subsequent crimes I left them out. I don’t think any of you need to be told that you should not illegally impersonate airport staff or flight crew.
Surprise! It is a serious crime in Illinois to trespass in any nuclear facility. Full details of the law are in 720 ILCS 5/21-8:
Sec. 21-8. Criminal trespass to a nuclear facility.
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to a nuclear facility when he or she knowingly and without lawful authority:
(1) enters or remains within a nuclear facility or on the grounds of a nuclear facility, after receiving notice before entry that entry to the nuclear facility is forbidden;
(2) remains within the facility or on the grounds of the facility after receiving notice from the owner or manager of the facility or other person authorized by the owner or manager of the facility to give that notice to depart from the facility or grounds of the facility; or
(b) A person has received notice from the owner or manager of the facility or other person authorized by the owner or manager of the facility within the meaning of paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (a) if he or she has been notified personally, either orally or in writing, or if a printed or written notice forbidding the entry has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at the main entrance to the facility or grounds of the facility or the forbidden part of the facility.
(c) In this Section, “nuclear facility” has the meaning ascribed to it in Section 3 of the Illinois Nuclear Safety Preparedness Act.
(d) Sentence. Criminal trespass to a nuclear facility is a Class 4 felony.
In case it ever needed to be clarified, you should never, ever trespass at a nuclear power plant or any facility that deals with nuclear fuels or other radioactive or emissive materials. Doing so will get you a class 4 felony charge in a big hurry.
Lastly, there is one more section for special criminal trespassing, this time at a place of public amusement.
Pay attention here because the state is not referring to theme parks! Many commonly visited public places fall into this category, and the charge for running afoul of this section is a felony, not a misdemeanor! See 720 ILCS 5/21-9:
Sec. 21-9. Criminal trespass to a place of public amusement.
(a) A person commits criminal trespass to a place of public amusement when he or she knowingly and without lawful authority enters or remains on any portion of a place of public amusement after having received notice that the general public is restricted from access to that portion of the place of public amusement. These areas may include, but are not limited to: a playing field, an athletic surface, a stage, a locker room, or a dressing room located at the place of public amusement.
(b) A property owner, a lessee, an agent of either the owner or lessee, or a performer or participant may use reasonable force to restrain a trespasser and remove him or her from the restricted area; however, any use of force beyond reasonable force may subject that person to any applicable criminal penalty.
(c) A person has received notice within the meaning of subsection (a) if he or she has been notified personally, either orally or in writing, or if a printed or written notice forbidding such entry has been conspicuously posted or exhibited at the entrance to the portion of the place of public amusement that is restricted or an oral warning has been broadcast over the public address system of the place of public amusement.
(d) In this Section, “place of public amusement” means a stadium, a theater, or any other facility of any kind, whether licensed or not, where a live performance, a sporting event, or any other activity takes place for other entertainment and where access to the facility is made available to the public, regardless of whether admission is charged.
(e) Sentence. Criminal trespass to a place of public amusement is a Class 4 felony. Upon imposition of any sentence, the court shall also impose a fine of not less than $1,000. In addition, any order of probation or conditional discharge entered following a conviction shall include a condition that the offender perform public or community service of not less than 30 and not more than 120 hours, if community service is available in the jurisdiction and is funded and approved by the county board of the county where the offender was convicted. The court may also impose any other condition of probation or conditional discharge under this Section.
You can think of a place of public amusement as any location, venue or building where entertainment is planned or underway. Theaters, stages, sports fields, things like that.
Criminal trespassing in or on any of them is a Class 4 felony with a hefty fine starting at $1,000 and additionally a significant amount of community service.
Also interesting is that this section is the only one that makes note that a property owner or one of their agents may use any reasonable force to restrain and eject a trespasser. Something of a rarity in self-defense-shy Illinois.
How to Obtain a Trespassing Order in Illinois
If you want to obtain an order of no trespass against someone in Illinois the property owner must ensure that the property has a posted notice forbidding entry at the main entrance and anywhere else on the property where entry is specifically forbidden.
Once this is done, and assuming trespass has occurred, inquire with your local police department, sheriff’s department or DA’s office to find out how to file the order. Evidence or written notice in the form of a certified letter might be required.
Rules for Posting No-Trespassing Signs in Illinois
Illinois penal law doesn’t specify requirements for signage, but multiple courts have referred to Environmental Conservation Law requirements for posting signage.
In this case, your no-trespassing signs should be at least 11 by 11 inches square, have the word “posted” displayed on it conspicuously along with your name and address, and also specify what behavior or entry is forbidden on the land, e.g. no trespassing, no hunting, etc. These signs should be posted conspicuously at every known entrance to the property and along the border no further than 660 feet apart.
Illinois also allows the use of purple paint markings placed in a specified way to post a property against trespass. These marks must be a high visibility purple paint placed on trees or posts and consist of a vertical line that is at least 8 inches long and between 3 and 5 feet from the ground, spaced no more than 100 feet apart along the perimeter of the property. There are also rules for using capped posts in the same manner, be sure to check the state statutes yourself for that one.
The state of Illinois’ laws on criminal trespassing are pretty reasonable for the gallons and gallons of ink that they spilled on codifying them.
Generally, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor in Illinois reserving felony charges for especially egregious acts like repeated trespassing on state funded property, trespassing inside a nuclear power facility or airport, or trespassing on or in a place of public amusement like a theater, ballfield or similar.
That being said, so long as you aren’t engaging in deliberate criminal activity and respect posted signs or orders to leave you have little to worry about as far as trespass charges are concerned in the state of Illinois.
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.