Iowa: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Structures, Dwellings, Land, Vehicles
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor, certain instances are felony.
- Fencing Required?: No.
- Signage Required?: No.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No.
Iowa Trespassing Law Overview
The state of Iowa’s trespassing laws are refreshingly straightforward, consisting of a single section that covers all instances of trespassing and variations thereof, all explained in an easy-to-understand way and in a logical order.
The subsequent section covers the penalty schedule for trespassing, again laid-out in a logical, brisk way.
We will be going over all of it in the sections below.
Relevant Iowa State Statutes
- Section 716.7 Trespass defined
- Section 716.8 Penalties
The language used in Iowa’s state statutes is largely straightforward and very much devoid of any convoluted legalese or anachronistic terms that have survived since the country was young.
Nonetheless, there are some definitions in this section, and they are helpfully placed right up front in 716.7 which defines and codifies trespass law in Iowa.
As always, you must take the time to read and understand the definitions, and do so thoroughly, if you do not want to be waylaid by the law at a later date.
Even common definitions might have hidden meanings and legal documents that made drastically change the meaning of a law as it is written.
Section 716.7 – Trespass defined.
1. For purposes of this section:
a. “Property” shall include any land, dwelling, building, conveyance, vehicle, or other temporary or permanent structure whether publicly or privately owned.
b. “Public utility” is a public utility as defined in section 476.1 or an electric transmission line as provided in chapter 478.
c. “Public utility property” means any land, dwelling, building, conveyance, vehicle, or other temporary or permanent structure owned, leased, or operated by a public utility and that is completely enclosed by a physical barrier of any kind.
d. “Railway corporation” means a corporation, company, or person owning, leasing, or operating any railroad in whole or in part within this state.
e. “Railway property” means all tangible real and personal property owned, leased, or operated by a railway corporation with the exception of any administrative building or offices of the railway corporation.
2. a. “Trespass” shall mean one or more of the following acts:
(1) Entering upon or in property without the express permission of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession with the intent to commit a public offense, to use, remove therefrom, alter, damage, harass, or place thereon or therein anything animate or inanimate, or to hunt, fish or trap on or in the property, including the act of taking or attempting to take a deer, other than a farm deer as defined in section 170.1 or preserve whitetail as defined in section 484C.1, which is on or in the property by a person who is outside the property.
This subparagraph does not prohibit the unarmed pursuit of game or fur-bearing animals by a person who lawfully injured or killed the game or fur-bearing animal which comes to rest on or escapes to the property of another.
(2) Entering or remaining upon or in property without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate therefrom by the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession, or the agent or employee of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession, or by any peace officer, magistrate, or public employee whose duty it is to supervise the use or maintenance of the property.
(3) Entering upon or in property for the purpose or with the effect of unduly interfering with the lawful use of the property by others.
(4) Being upon or in property and wrongfully using, removing therefrom, altering, damaging, harassing, or placing thereon or therein anything animate or inanimate, without the implied or actual permission of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession.
(5) Entering or remaining upon or in railway property without lawful authority or without the consent of the railway corporation which owns, leases, or operates the railway property.
This subparagraph does not apply to passage over a railroad right-of-way, other than a track, railroad roadbed, viaduct, bridge, trestle, or railroad yard, by an unarmed person if the person has not been notified or requested to abstain from entering onto the right-of-way or to vacate the right-of-way and the passage over the right-of-way does not interfere with the operation of the railroad.
(6) Entering or remaining upon or in public utility property without lawful authority or without the consent of the public utility that owns, leases, or operates the public utility property.
This subparagraph does not apply to passage over public utility right-of-way by a person if the person has not been notified or requested by posted signage or other means to abstain from entering onto the right-of-way or to vacate the right-of-way.
b. “Trespass” shall not mean either of the following:
(1) Entering upon the property of another for the sole purpose of retrieving personal property which has accidentally or inadvertently been thrown, fallen, strayed, or blown onto the property of another, provided that the person retrieving the property takes the most direct and accessible route to and from the property to be retrieved, quits the property as quickly as is possible, and does not unduly interfere with the lawful use of the property.
This subparagraph does not apply to public utility property where the person has been notified or requested by posted signage or other means to abstain from entering.
(2) Entering upon the right-of-way of a public road or highway.
3. This section shall not apply to the following persons:
a. Representatives of the state department of transportation, the federal railroad administration, or the national transportation safety board who enter or remain upon or in railway property while engaged in the performance of official duties.
b. Employees of a railway corporation who enter or remain upon or in railway property while acting in the course of employment.
c. Any person who is engaged in the operation of a lawful business on railway station grounds or in the railway depot.
d. Representatives of the Iowa utilities board, the federal energy regulatory commission, or the federal communications commission who enter or remain upon or in public utility property while engaged in the performance of official duties.
e. Employees of a public utility who enter or remain upon or in public utility property while acting in the course of employment.
That is really all there is to it in the state of Iowa. Simply stated one cannot enter without explicit permission any property of another person, whether fenced or unfenced, whether marked or unmarked, for any reason.
Remaining on a property after being requested to leave the property is also trespassing.
Also entering any property with the intention of preventing any lawful use of the property by other people is likewise trespassing.
And it should go without saying but I will include it for completeness that entering or otherwise wrongfully using or removing anything animate or inanimate from someone else’s property without the explicit permission of the owner is likewise trespassing.
It is also interesting to note that entering someone else’s property without their explicit permission in order to place anything animate or inanimate, or to hunt, trap or fish is likewise criminal trespass, though an exception is made for the unarmed pursuit of any game animal or fur-bearing animal by the person who otherwise lawfully injured or killed that animal on another property they had a legal, lawful right to be on.
In short, if you put your gun or bow away while pursuing an animal that you wounded in the course of legal hunting, you may be on someone else’s property to recover the animal.
Additionally, one cannot enter upon any railway property which is owned or leased by the rail Corporation without the explicit permission of the owner or operator thereof.
This also applies to any public utility related property that is owned, leased or otherwise operated by the owner or operator of that public utility.
Interestingly, Iowa does have a provision codified by law which allows someone to enter the property of another person if they are chasing after something of theirs that has accidentally made its way onto their property, either thrown, fallen or been blown by the wind.
There is a stipulation, however, that in the course of retrieving your item from this person’s property that you take the most direct route in order to retrieve your item and that you leave the property as quickly as possible once you have retrieved it.
Be warned that this provision does not apply to any public utility property where there is posted signage that forbids trespassing. So, for your own good, don’t be climbing inside the fence at the power substation to get your beach ball if you know what’s good for you.
The next section is somewhat shorter and covers the penalty schedules for the various types of trespassing in Iowa.
Section 716.8 – Penalties.
1. Any person who knowingly trespasses upon the property of another commits a simple misdemeanor.
2. Any person committing a trespass as defined in section 716.7, other than a trespass as defined in section 716.7, subsection 2, paragraph “a”, subparagraph (6), which results in injury to any person or damage in an amount more than two hundred dollars to anything, animate or inanimate, located thereon or therein commits a serious misdemeanor.
3. A person who knowingly trespasses on the property of another with the intent to commit a hate crime, as defined in section 729A.2, commits a serious misdemeanor.
4. A person committing a trespass as defined in section 716.7 with the intent to commit a hate crime which results in injury to any person or damage in an amount more than two hundred dollars to anything, animate or inanimate, located thereon or therein commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
5. A person who commits a trespass while hunting deer, other than a farm deer as defined in section 170.1 or preserve whitetail as defined in section 484C.1, commits a simple misdemeanor. The person shall also be subject to civil penalties as provided in sections 481A.130 and 481A.131. A deer taken by a person while committing such a trespass shall be subject to seizure as provided in section 481A.12.
6. Any person who commits a trespass as defined in section 716.7, subsection 2, paragraph “a”, subparagraph (6), commits a class “D” felony.
All forms of trespassing in Iowa are misdemeanors of various grades, save for one. If you should trespass on any public utility property as described above you’re committing a Class D felony.
Iowa’s trespassing laws are straightforward and easy for anyone to understand with just a little reading, so long as you pay attention. Unless someone trespasses on a public utility property they will be facing only a misdemeanor.
Do be cautious in your travels, though, since Iowa has absolutely no requirements for signage, fencing or other markings to bring the force of law against trespassers.
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.