North Dakota: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land, Vehicles
- Crime Class: Felony, Misdemeanor
- Fencing Required?: No, but does qualify severity of charge.
- Signage Required?: No, but does qualify severity of charge.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No.
North Dakota Trespassing Law Overview
- Dakota has stiff penalties for trespassing.
- Trespassing in any dwelling or high-security premises is a felony.
- Trespassing in any other building or occupied structure is a significant misdemeanor.
- Trespassing on any premises or building enclosed to exclude intruders is a significant misdemeanor.
- Most types of trespass in a vehicle are felonies.
Relevant North Dakota State Statutes
- 12.1-05-12. Definitions.
- 12.1-22-06. Definitions.
- 12.1-22-03. Criminal trespass – Noncriminal offense on posted property.
- 12.1-22-04. Unlawful entry into or concealment within a vehicle.
- 12.1-22-05. Stowing away.
North Dakota is fairly notable for their stiff penalties on several different types of trespassing within the state’s borders.
They do not have as many laws as some other states, and what laws they do have are short, plainly written and fairly inclusive, meaning you probably will not have much room to wiggle out of a charge if you are in the wrong.
The most relevant section of the law is quite lengthy, and so I will be interrupting the body of the text with my commentary between breaks instead of covering it at the end of a given section.
Also like many other states North Dakota does include definitions in this chapter covering trespass against property, and we will cover those first in 12.1-05-12 and 12.1-22-06.
This latter section is found at the end of the chapter, but I have brought it to the front in order to make the rest of your reading more informed:
In sections 12.1-22-02 to 12.1-22-06:
1. “Dwelling” has the meaning prescribed in subsection 2 of section 12.1-05-12.
2. “Highly secured premises” means any place which is continuously guarded and where display of visible identification is required of persons while they are on the premises.
3. “Night” means the period between thirty minutes past sunset and thirty minutes before sunrise.
4. “Occupied structure” means a structure or vehicle:
a. Where any person lives or carries on business or other calling; or
b. Which is used for overnight accommodation of persons.
c. Any such structure or vehicle is deemed to be “occupied” regardless of whether a
person is actually present.
5. “Storage structure” means any structure, truck, railway car, or aircraft which is used
primarily for the storage or transportation of property.
You’ll see the verbiage “highly secured premises” pop up a couple of times in the section, and simply means any place which is under continual guard, and where one has to show identification at all times to be allowed on the premises.
This could be theoretically any kind of place, but you should definitely expect such badged and guarded facilities in the medical industry, power generation facilities and other places of societal importance.
An “occupied structure” is simply a building or vehicle where any person lives or conducts business, a place for the overnight lodging of people, and you should take that to mean a place where people go to sleep at night whatever kind of building that is.
Of significant interest is the fact that North Dakota classifies any such building meeting this criteria as occupied whether or not people are actually present!
This means inadvertent trespass in an unoccupied building that rates the qualification of occupied structure could see you tagged with a felony charge.
The remainder of the important definitions, notably premises and dwelling which are used constantly throughout this chapter, are found previously in 12.1-05-12:
In this chapter:
2. “Dwelling” means any building or structure, though movable or temporary, or a portion thereof, which is for the time being a person’s home or place of lodging.
4. “Premises” means all or any part of a building or real property, or any structure,
vehicle, or watercraft used for overnight lodging of persons, or used by persons for
carrying on business therein.
“Dwelling” Has a highly inclusive and broad definition, specifying any building or structure, mobile or fixed, temporary or permanent, or any portion thereof that is a person’s home or place of lodging.
This could be almost anything. This could be a tent, it could be a hotel room, it could be a shelter or even a hammock on a deck.
“Premises” has a very similar definition, defined as any part of a building or real property, which means it now includes land, or any structure, vehicle or watercraft is used for the overnight lodging a person or used my person’s for carrying on business therein.
Under this strict definition, it might not include vacant, unimproved and unused land unless a person was camping on it but this is speculation.
Next, we move into the majority of the trespassing statutes in 12.1-22-03. I will be adding my commentary and explanations between the breaks:
12.1-22-03. Criminal trespass – Noncriminal offense on posted property.
1. An individual is guilty of a class C felony if, knowing that that individual is not licensed
or privileged to do so, the individual enters or remains in a dwelling or in highly
2. An individual is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if, knowing that that individual is not
licensed or privileged to do so, the individual:
a. Enters or remains in or on any building, occupied structure, or storage structure,
or separately secured or occupied portion thereof; or
b. Enters or remains in any place so enclosed as manifestly to exclude intruders.
Entering or remaining inside any dwelling or highly secured premises is a class C felony, a serious crime. Remember from our definitions above that a dwelling is considered an occupied structure whether or not it is actually occupied by people at the time!
Also, entering any other occupied structure, storage structure or any other place that is enclosed with a barricade designed to exclude intruders is criminal trespass and a Class A misdemeanor.
3. a. An individual is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if, knowing that that individual is
not licensed or privileged to do so, the individual enters or remains in any place
as to which notice against trespass is given by actual communication to the actor
by the individual in charge of the premises or other authorized individual or by
posting in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders. The
name of the person posting the premises must appear on each sign in legible
b. Even if the conduct of the owner, tenant, or individual authorized by the owner
varies from the provisions of subdivision a, an individual may be found guilty of
violating subdivision a if the owner, tenant, or individual authorized by the owner
substantially complied with subdivision a and notice against trespass is clear from
c. An individual who violates subdivision a is guilty of a class A misdemeanor for the
second or subsequent offense within a two-year period.
Trespassing in any place or on any premises where notice is given either by individual communication to the person trespassing or by way of a posted notice that such trespassing is forbidden is a class B misdemeanor, and any subsequent violation is a class A misdemeanor if it occurs within a two-year period of the first violation.
Note that this paragraph, specifically in subparagraph (b), makes mention that even if the owner or other individual who is authorized to control a property does not comply entirely with the provisions of posted notices this does not let a trespasser off the hook! You will not pull off a gotcha because of incorrect signage in North Dakota!
4. a. An individual, knowing the individual is not licensed or privileged to do so, may
not enter or remain in a place as to which notice against trespass is given by
posting in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders. A
violation of this subdivision is a noncriminal offense.
b. A peace officer shall cite an individual who violates subdivision a with a fine of
two hundred fifty dollars for each violation.
c. The peace officer citing the individual shall:
(1) Take the name and address of the individual; and
(2) Notify the individual of the right to request a hearing if posting bond by mail.
d. The peace officer may not take the individual into custody or require the individual
to proceed with the peace officer to any other location for the purpose of posting
bond. The officer shall provide the individual with an envelope for use in mailing
Trespassing in any place where you are not licensed or privileged to do so in violation of a posted notice can earn you a violation, a non criminal offense, and a $250 fine.
e. An individual cited may appear before the designated official and pay the
statutory fine for the violation at or before the time scheduled for hearing.
f. If the individual has posted bond, the individual may forfeit bond by not appearing
at the designated time.
g. If the individual posts bond by mail, the bond must be submitted within fourteen
days of the date of the citation and the individual cited shall indicate on the
envelope or citation whether a hearing is requested. If the individual does not
request a hearing within fourteen days of the date of the citation, the bond is
deemed forfeited and the individual is deemed to have admitted to the violation
and to have waived the right to a hearing on the issue of commission of the
violation. If the individual requests a hearing, the court for the county in which the
citation is issued shall issue a summons to the individual requesting the hearing
notifying the individual of the date of the hearing before the designated official.
h. Upon appearing at the hearing scheduled in the citation or otherwise scheduled
at the individual’s request, the individual may make a statement in explanation of
the individual’s action. The official may at that time waive or suspend the statutory
fine or bond.
i. A citing peace officer may not receive the statutory fine or bond.
j. The bond required to secure appearance before the judge must be identical to
the statutory fine established in subdivision b.
5. An individual is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if that individual remains upon the
property of another after being requested to leave the property by a duly authorized
individual. An individual who violates this subsection is guilty of a class A misdemeanor
for the second or subsequent offense within a two-year period.
6. This section does not apply to a peace officer in the course of discharging the peace
officer’s official duties.
If you have been granted permission to be on the property of another, but you remain on that property after the owner or the owner’s authorized agent request that you leave you are guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A misdemeanor for the second and any subsequent offense that occurs within a two-year period of the first.
12.1-22-04. Unlawful entry into or concealment within a vehicle.
1. A person is guilty of an offense if, knowing that the person is not licensed or privileged to do so, the person:
a. Forcibly enters a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft;
b. Enters a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft, without the use of force, with intent to commit
a crime; or
c. Enters a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft lawfully, and with the intent to commit a crime,
conceals oneself in the vehicle, vessel, or aircraft.
2. The offense is a class B felony if the actor is armed with a firearm, destructive device,
or other weapon the possession of which under the circumstances indicates an intent
or readiness to inflict serious bodily injury. Otherwise the offense is a class C felony.
12.1-22-05. Stowing away.
A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he surreptitiously remains aboard a vehicle, train, vessel, or aircraft with intent to obtain transportation.
Entering through force or without force any vehicle of any kind with the intent to commit a crime is a class C felony, or a class B felony if you’re armed with any firearm or other weapon.
Surreptitiously sneaking and remaining aboard any vehicle of any kind with the sole intent of obtaining transportation, otherwise known as stowing away, is a class A misdemeanor.
How to Obtain a Trespassing Order in North Dakota
If you want to file an order of no trespass against someone in North Dakota, contact your local sheriff’s department or police department. Keep in mind that trespassing on vacant, unimproved property that does not have posted signage and in the absence of prior direct notification in writing or verbally is a very minor crime in the state, and might not be enough to allow you to file an order of no trespass.
Rules for Posting No-Trespassing Signs in North Dakota
Posting your property with no-trespassing signage is a great idea if you want to protection from trespassers under the law. Happily, North Dakota has no specific requirements for the size and type of the signs themselves so long as they are posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of an intruder.
North Dakota is notable among other states for its wide-ranging and inclusive legal language concerning trespassing. Several types of trespassing in the state will get you felony charges. The rest of them make up associated misdemeanor charges or non-criminal offenses punishable with fines.
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.