What Exactly Is 2nd Degree Trespassing?

Have you heard of second degree trespassing before? What’s with the degree ratings when it comes to crimes anyway?

To most folks, trespassing is generally not considered too serious of a crime, but depending on the state you live in you might be dead wrong.

trespassing sing on fence

The severity of a trespassing charge can rank from somewhere “just above a parking ticket” to “heinous felony,” with a penalty that ranges from a few dollars to nearly a decade in prison and fine of tens of thousands of dollars.

So, what exactly is second degree trespassing?

Second degree trespassing is typically a more serious kind of trespassing, usually a misdemeanor but sometimes a felony. Often, second degree trespassing entails wantonly trespassing on posted or fenced property, but can concern many other kinds of property also.

This is one of those questions that has a deceptively difficult answer, and that’s because trespassing laws can be so very different from place to place.

Accordingly, it’s up to you to learn and understand your state’s trespassing laws both for your own sake so you don’t accidentally trespass and so you understand precisely what your rights are concerning protecting your own property.

There’s a lot more to learn, so let’s get into it…

2nd Degree Trespassing Charges are Different from State to State

If you learn nothing else, learn this: second degree trespassing, both the terms of the crime and also the punishments, can be totally different from state to state.

That’s America for you. Yes, trespassing as a legal concept is well understood and more or less consistent in law pretty much everywhere, but how individual states define it and also how they dole out punishments according to those definitions can be completely different- as we will learn in a little bit.

You must not assume that second degree trespassing is it some petty offense in your area. Likewise, don’t assume it is some terrible felony either.

Look up the state statutes and find out for sure. If you have any doubts, contact a competent attorney in your area.

2nd Degree Trespass Might be Called “Criminal Trespass in the 2nd Degree”

One thing that might trip you up if you’re searching for the trespassing statutes in your state is how second degree trespass is referred to.

In many places, it will be called exactly that. Or, you might see it in the statutes as criminal trespass in the second degree, or just trespass in the second degree.

It totally depends, and broadly, they are referring to the same thing: a modestly significant trespassing charge.

2nd Degree Trespassing Usually Entails Wanton Action by the Trespasser

It can hardly be said that trespassing charges have any significant overlap from state to state except that they’re referring to the same crime of being on someone else’s property without permission.

However, it is fair to say that the vast majority of second degree trespassing charges typically entail some amount of wantonness on the part of the trespasser.

Meaning, a person is typically trespassing on property that is protected by fencing or walls, or else is posted with signs forbidding trespassing.

Considering that a person must hop a fence or a wall, otherwise gain access to a property, or else walk on to a property while ignoring the signage, this shows a degree of callous disregard for the law that is usually reflected in the charges and in the punishment.

2nd Degree Trespassing May Involve Trespass on Property Other than Unimproved Land

But that isn’t the whole story, either. Sometimes second degree trespassing concerns the above factors regarding private property, but it might also cover other kinds of properties besides unimproved land.

For instance, in some states, trespassing on the grounds of a hotel, motel, campground, RV, or other area typically used for permanent or temporary habitation fits under second degree trespassing because it does not neatly fit under any other classification.

This, of course, is only a rough guideline, and again varies greatly from state to state.

2nd Degree Trespassing Could Be a Misdemeanor or Felony

This is another crucially important point: second degree trespassing might be a misdemeanor in one state and a felony in another.

Even more confusing, depending on the wording of the statute and the classification of various instances of trespassing, certain types of second-degree trespassing might be a misdemeanor and others be a felony in the same state!

If you haven’t learned by now, this is definitely a great example of why there is no easy, simple answer as to just what second degree trespassing is.

Don’t worry; I’ll give you a few examples below that will show you exactly what we are dealing with.

Examples of 2nd Degree Trespassing

I know I’ve said it several times already, but there really is a huge amount of variation and just what constitutes second degree trespassing from place to place.

Accordingly, the only way to get a straight answer is to go directly to the state statutes of the state that you live in. Or, it applies to you, where you work or travel.

Let’s look at two below, Colorado and Kentucky. First up, Colorado.

In Colorado, second degree criminal trespass is a highly varied crime.

It can entail unlawfully entering or remaining in or upon any premises belonging to another person which are enclosed in a manner designed to keep people out, or knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining enter upon any common area of a hotel, motel, condo, or apartment.

Second degree criminal trespass is also knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining in anyone else’s motor vehicle.

Notably, in Colorado, if you enter upon the fenced or enclosed premises of another person or the common areas of a hotel motel or condo it is only a petty offense.

Not even a misdemeanor! Trespassing in someone else’s motor vehicle is a legit misdemeanor, though. But that’s not all!

Anybody who trespasses on agricultural land in the way spelled out by the statute will be charged with a felony if it can be reasonably proved they had the intention to commit any other felony while on the agricultural land.

Talk about putting it all in one basket, huh?

You can read the exact wording of the Colorado State statute covering second degree criminal trespass, CRS 18-4-503, below:

Second-Degree Criminal Trespass, C.R.S. 18-4-503

(1) A person commits the crime of second-degree criminal trespass if such person:

(a) Unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the premises of another which are enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders or are fenced

(b) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the common areas of a hotel, motel, condominium or apartment building

(c) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in a motor vehicle of another

(2)(a) Second-degree criminal trespass in violation of subsection (1)(a) or (1)(b) of this section is a petty offense, but it is a class 4 felony if the person trespasses on premises so classified as agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony thereon.

(b) Second degree criminal trespass in violation of subsection (1)(c) of this section is a class 2 misdemeanor.

(3) Whenever a person is convicted of, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, receives a deferred judgment or sentence for, or is adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for, a violation of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section, the offender’s driver’s license shall be revoked as provided in section 42-2-125, C.R.S.

And then, almost the polar opposite of Colorado’s all-inclusive statute, we have Kentucky’s standards for criminal trespass in the second degree, spelled out in 511.070.

In Kentucky, a person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when they knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in any building or premises to which notice against trespassing is given by fencing or some other enclosure.

Simply, criminal trespass in the second degree is a class B misdemeanor in Kentucky, unless a person does it during any declared emergency affecting the area that the property is in, in which case it will be a class A misdemeanor.

That’s all! The complete text of Kentucky’s second degree criminal trespass statute is below:

511.070 Criminal trespass in the second degree.

(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when he or she 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, unless the offense occurs during a declared emergency as defined by KRS 39A.020 arising from a natural or man-made disaster, within the area covered by the emergency declaration, and within the area impacted by the disaster, in which case it is a Class A misdemeanor.

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