Kentucky: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, dwellings, land, vehicles
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor
- Fencing Required?: Depends; for trespass in second degree and required for unused land.
- Signage Required?: Only for marking of unused, unimproved land for trespass protection.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No.
Kentucky Trespassing Law Overview
Kentucky has mostly reasonable trespassing laws that are very short, sweet, and easy to understand with no filler, fluff and the minimum of legalese required to get the point across.
All forms of trespassing, no matter what kind and so long as they happen isolated from any other criminal activity while trespassing, are misdemeanors. This includes trespassing in or on someone’s land, vehicle and even their dwelling.
But there is one surprise that the Kentucky statutes have in store, and that is a surprisingly long and in-depth section covering special trespassing upon key infrastructure assets which entail all kinds of places and includes specific language about remotely operated drones, also.
Even this lengthy section is easy to understand. We will cover everything you need to know about trespassing law in the state of Kentucky below.
Relevant Kentucky State Statutes
- 511.010 Definitions
- 511.060 Criminal trespass in the first degree
- 511.070 Criminal trespass in the second degree
- 511.080 Criminal trespass in the third degree
- 511.085 Domestic violence shelter trespass
- 511.090 General provisions
- 511.100 Trespass upon key infrastructure assets
In keeping with our reviews of most state’s trespassing laws, we will begin with the definitions for the Kentucky State statutes.
Like all of the sections save one in this chapter it is short and to the point. While there are only a few definitions that you need to be aware of they are of vital importance for understanding the rest of the text covering the law as it is written.
Make sure you understand what each one means so you do not get the wrong interpretation from any other section:
The following definitions apply in this chapter unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Building,” in addition to its ordinary meaning, means any structure, vehicle, watercraft or aircraft:
(a) Where any person lives; or
(b) Where people assemble for purposes of business, government, education, religion, entertainment or public transportation.
Each unit of a building consisting of two (2) or more units separately secured or occupied is a separate building.
(2) “Dwelling” means a building which is usually occupied by a person lodging therein.
(3) “Premises” includes the term “building” as defined herein and any real property.
Like I said, not much to it. Of particular interest to most readers is the definition of “building” which includes within it any vehicle be it terrestrial, a watercraft or an aircraft.
Also the term dwelling, which most of you should be familiar and comfortable with, which specifically defines a building which is typically occupied by a person for lodging. “Lodging” is not defined in this section, and so it is assumed that has the common meaning.
Lastly “premises” includes within it the term “building”, so technically they can be used interchangeably in the text, but also any real property, which includes land and specifically unimproved, unoccupied land. Next, we look at criminal trespass in the first degree, covered in 511.060:
511.060 Criminal trespass in the first degree.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling.
(2) Criminal trespass in the first degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
In Kentucky when someone knowingly enters or remains unlawfully inside a dwelling it is criminal trespass in the first degree that will nab you a Class A misdemeanor charge.
Criminal trespass in the second degree is next, covered in 511.070:
511.070 Criminal trespass in the second degree.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when he knowingly
enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon premises as to which notice
against trespass is given by fencing or other enclosure.
(2) Criminal trespass in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanor
If a person were to knowingly enter or unlawfully remain in any building or upon any premises which has fencing or some other enclosing obstacle around it, they are guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree, a Class B misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The last standard variation of trespassing in KY is criminal trespass in the third degree, expounded on in 511.080:
511.080 Criminal trespass in the third degree.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters
or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.
(2) Criminal trespass in the third degree is a violation.
Someone who knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon any premises commits criminal trespass in the third degree, being a third-degree violation in the state of Kentucky, not even a misdemeanor.
Remind yourself that premises as defined in this chapter covers buildings akin to the definition in that same section and also land, even vacant, unimproved land.
This also covers the curtilage of any other piece of real property, meaning the front yard or backyard of a building or dwelling, or the parking lot if part of the same parcel of any commercial building if specific license to enter is not given.
Next up is our first special instance of trespassing covered in the law, domestic violence shelter trespass, found in section 511.085:
511.085 Domestic violence shelter trespass.
(1) As used in this section, “domestic violence shelter” means a residential facility
providing protective shelter services for domestic violence victims.
(2) A person is guilty of domestic violence shelter trespass when:
(a) The person enters the buildings or premises of a domestic violence shelter that
the person knows or should know is a domestic violence shelter or which is
clearly marked on the building or premises as being a domestic violence
(b) At the time of the entering, the person is the subject of an order of protection
as defined in KRS 403.720 and 456.010.
(3) It shall be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the person entered the
shelter with the permission of the operator of the shelter after disclosing to the
operator that the person is the subject of an order of protection or a foreign
protective order. Authority to enter under this subsection may not be granted by a
person taking shelter at the facility.
(4) A person shall not be convicted of a violation of this section and a violation of KRS
511.060, 511.070, or 511.080 arising from the same act of trespass.
(5) Domestic violence shelter trespass is a Class A misdemeanor.
This section is a little more complicated, but only a little.
In essence, it is trespassing if someone who is currently under a protective restraining order enters or attempts to enter any clearly marked domestic violence shelter unless they have the explicit permission of the operator of the shelter after informing them that they are under a protective order.
At any rate, violation of this statute is a Class A misdemeanor.
Next up are the general provisions of the chapter. Normally encountered earlier in most states laws, Kentucky seems to have tucked it into the back end:
511.090 General provisions.
(1) A person “enters or remains unlawfully” in or upon premises when he is not
privileged or licensed to do so.
(2) A person who, regardless of his intent, enters or remains in or upon premises which
are at the time open to the public does so with license or privilege unless he defies a
lawful order not to enter or remain personally communicated to him by the owner of
such premises or other authorized person.
(3) A license or privilege to enter or remain in or upon premises which are only partly
open to the public is not a license or privilege to enter or remain in or upon a part of
the premises which is not open to the public.
(4) A person who enters or remains upon unimproved and apparently unused land
which is neither fenced nor otherwise enclosed does not commit criminal trespass
unless notice against trespass is personally communicated to him by the owner of
the land or some other authorized person or unless notice is given by posting in a
(5) Private land adjoining a railtrail that is neither fenced nor otherwise enclosed shall
be presumed to be land where notice against trespassing has been given by the
owner of the land, and a person utilizing the railtrail shall be presumed to lack
privilege or license to enter upon that land unless the person has permission from an
adjoining landowner to do so.
The language in this section seems fairly circular, but the point of the law is easy to understand. It clarifies that a person enters or remains unlawfully on a premises when they do not have privilege or license to do so, meaning explicit permission.
Number two clarifies that any place open to the public gives any person explicit permission, meaning privilege or license, so long as they enter or remain only in the part of the building or premises that is open to the public.
Note that the owner or the owner’s agent can revoke that permission, i.e. ask you to leave, at any time.
Number four notifies that a person entering or remaining upon apparently unused and unimproved land is not trespassing unless the land is marked with a conspicuous sign barring trespass, or specific notice is given by the owner that trespassing is forbidden.
Now we get to it at last, the lengthiest section on trespassing in the chapter. 511.100 covers criminal trespass upon key infrastructure assets, and has a surprising amount of specifically named places included within, even if most of us will not specifically ever be at risk of encountering them, even accidentally:
511.100 Trespass upon key infrastructure assets.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “Key infrastructure assets” means:
- Any critical node of a system used in the production or generation of
- A petroleum refinery;
- A rubber or hazardous chemical manufacturing facility;
- A petroleum or hazardous chemical storage facility or terminal;
- Natural gas processing, fractionation, stabilization, and compressor
station facilities, as well as above-ground pipelines and related facilities;
- Railroad yards and railroad tunnel portals;
- A drinking water collection, treatment, or storage facility;
- Grounds or property of a state prison, juvenile justice facility, jail, or
other facility for the detention of persons charged with or convicted of
- A facility used for research, development, design, production, delivery,
or maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and
components or parts to meet military requirements of the United States;
- A wireless communications facility, including the tower, antennae,
support structures and all associated ground-based equipment, and a
telecommunications central switching office; and
(b) “Unmanned aircraft system” means an aircraft that is operated without the
possibility of direct human interaction from within or on the aircraft and
includes everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft and
all associated elements, including communication links and the components
that control the small unmanned aircraft, that are required for the safe and
efficient operation of the unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.
(2) (a) A person commits the offense of trespass upon key infrastructure assets if he
or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon real property on
which key infrastructure assets are located.
(b) A person commits the offense of trespass upon key infrastructure assets if he
or she knowingly uses, or retains or authorizes a person to use, an unmanned
aircraft system to fly above real property on which key infrastructure assets
are located with the intent to cause harm or damage to or conduct surveillance
of the key infrastructure asset without the prior consent of the owner, tenant,
or lessee of the real property.
(3) Trespass upon key infrastructure assets is a Class B misdemeanor for the first
offense, and a Class A misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense.
(4) This section does not apply to:
(a) An unmanned aircraft system used by the federal government or by the
Commonwealth, or by a person acting pursuant to a contract with the federal
government or the Commonwealth;
(b) An unmanned aircraft system used by:
- The owner of the real property or key infrastructure asset;
- A person under a valid lease, servitude, right-of-way, right of use,
permit, license, or other right granted by the owner of the real property
or key infrastructure asset; or
- A third party who is retained or authorized by a person specified in
subparagraph 1. or 2. of this paragraph;
(c) An unmanned aircraft system used by a law enforcement agency, emergency
medical service agency, hazardous material response team, disaster
management agency, or other emergency management agency for the purpose
of incident command, area reconnaissance, personnel and equipment
deployment monitoring, training, or a related purpose;
(d) Operation of an unmanned aircraft system by a person or entity for a
commercial purpose in compliance with applicable Federal Aviation
Administration authorization, regulations, or exemptions;
(e) A satellite orbiting the earth;
(f) An unmanned aircraft system used by an insurance company or a person
acting on behalf of an insurance company for purposes of underwriting an
insurance risk or investigating damage to insured property; or
(g) An unmanned aircraft system used strictly in accordance with an order of a
court of competent jurisdiction.
So long as you do not enter any of the named places at the beginning of this section for any reason without authorization, you don’t have anything to worry about.
For operators of drones and other unmanned aircraft however, you’re going to need to be more careful unless you are doing it as a specifically authorized individual named in subsection for and its subsequent paragraphs.
While the prohibition on the use of any remotely operated drone for the purposes of surveillance has a sort of clandestine ring to it, and that might lead you to believe that casual use of a drone for aerial hobby photography is harmless, know that “surveillance” can mean direct observation of any kind when you boil down the definition.
As such, flying a drone overhead while it relays an optical camera feed back to a receiver, base station or to an internal memory card or hard drive is technically conducting surveillance, no matter why you are doing it.
All of you drone enthusiasts out there take great care that you do not let your drone stray over one of these places, or else you’re going to have a hard time proving that you were not conducting illegal surveillance of the premises.
The part about illegal drone surveillance constituting trespass on one of these protected sites will also result in the same charge against you if you were to hire someone who is not on the approved list above to do so in your stead. You cannot use a “cat’s paw” for your purposes and evade a charge under the law in Kentucky.
Trespassing laws are straightforward and exceedingly simple in Kentucky, even the lengthy section that covers trespass on or in key infrastructure sites.
So long as you are not going out of your way to trespass in Kentucky, you should not have to worry about any charges accordingly being leveled against you, and even if you do you are only facing a misdemeanor, even for the most serious penalty schedules.
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.