How Long Do a Trespassing Charges Stay on Record?

Do you have trespassing charges in your background? Have you ever wondered about how long such charges will stay on your criminal record?

It’s an important question, as anything more than infraction-level trespassing could create problems for you when it comes time to get a job, get a security clearance or any number of other things that are part of adult life.

trespassing sing on fence

Accordingly, you’ll need to know how long trespassing charges will remain a liability. So, just how long do trespassing charges stay on your record?

There is no set amount of time that trespassing charges will remain on your criminal record. Typically, such charges just don’t fall off or disappear. To eliminate traces of these charges, you’ll need to get your records sealed or charges expunged.

There’s a little bit of misinformation going around concerning criminal trespassing charges on your record.

Some folks seem to think that these charges will just vanish after 2 years, 5 years or some other indeterminate length of time.

Practically speaking, those charges will be discoverable by anyone who cares to look, employer or otherwise, unless you take the appropriate action.

It’s not the end of the world, but if you want to put your best foot forward there’s more you’ll want to know. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you all about it.

Trespassing Charges Just Don’t “Go Away”

I don’t know how the notion got started that trespassing charges, misdemeanors or not, just disappear off of your record after I set amount of time.

That’s generally not how the criminal justice system works, and though it isn’t out of the question that certain files or databases might age out after a very long period of time, most law enforcement agencies keep very good records.

In the Information Age we’re all living in, other agencies, commercial enterprises and even interested individuals can access those LE records if they are motivated enough.

Accordingly, if you have a trespassing charge on your background it’s basically there unless you take action to get rid of it.

We’ll talk more about that later, and you should know right up front that while it is usually fairly easy to achieve after a certain amount of time has passed it is not guaranteed depending on the state where it occurred in the nature of the crime.

In any case, a criminal record isn’t like the mythical “permanent record” of high school that teachers and parents would threaten you with in order to get you to shape up; if you really break the law, you will really have a record.

Certain Trespassing Charges are Felonies

Something else to consider is that not all trespassing charges are so minor they are barely considered crimes, or misdemeanors at worst: Summit trespassing charges are felonies, and very serious felonies at that.

Depending on the state, because all trespassing charges vary significantly from state to state, you could be facing a couple of years in state prison and a multi-thousand dollar fine, or you could be facing more than a decade in prison and fined upwards of $100,000!

For trespassing!? Yes, believe it; if you were to trespass on fenced or otherwise enclosed agricultural land in certain states or trespass in critical infrastructure facilities pretty much anywhere- such as rail yards, electrical substations, power plants, nuclear facilities, restricted areas at the airport- you could be facing serious felony charges and incredible penalties to boot.

If the state treats these as major crimes, this is not going to disappear in a few years off of your record! Anyone who cares to look is going to be able to discover and read all about what you did.

If You Want to Remove Criminal Charges from your Record, You Must Take Action

So, let’s say you have trespassing charges on your record, of any kind.

What do you need to do if you don’t want these to tarnish your reputation or be discoverable by an employer, potential mate or anyone else that could be looking into your background?

You will need to initiate having those charges, or rather your record, sealed or get the charges themselves expunged from the record.

That’s pretty much all you can do unless you want to look into getting an alternate identity, and that’s a whole different can of worms!

Although the concepts of sealing and expungement are sometimes used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. I’ll explain the differences in the following sections.

Sealing Records Will Make Them Less Discoverable to the General Public

The sealing of your records is exactly what it sounds like: basically it closes specific records to prevent discoverability from the general public, employers, and other people.

The records still exist, but most common people won’t be able to access them.

It should be noted that most law enforcement agencies and certainly almost every government agency will be able to access the contents of sealed records.

But, if you just want to prevent your reputation from being sullied from a misdemeanor trespassing charge that was, truly, more of a misunderstanding than anything sealing your records is straightforward, usually simple in most states, and a good way to keep that blemish in your history under wraps.

Keep in mind, legally, if someone were to ask you if you had any such charges in your background the honest and legally binding answer would still be “yes,” however.

Expungement will Remove Charges from State Databases and Repositories

Now, if you have multiple charges, or more serious felony charges, or if you are considering employment or background checks from high-level companies, federal agencies and similar groups you might need to look into having your records expunged.

Expungement is the final answer when it comes to cleaning up your criminal record: expungement completely scrubs all traces of the charges and the disposition of the case from your record so that they cannot be found at all.

This means that even if someone went looking for them, even the vast majority of high-level background checks would not return any results.

It should be pointed out that, to certain groups, nothing is ever truly erased. But for virtually all other employment situations, government or not, your record will come back clean.

And more importantly for some of us, because the charges and all records of the proceedings are obliterated from relevant databases and repositories of such information, you can legally say that you do not have any such charges on your record.

You Will Need to Wait Before Seeking Expungement or Sealing

Also keep in mind that depending on the state where the charges were filed, the nature of the trespass, your performance while on probation (if applicable), and many other factors you might have to wait a certain amount of time before you can try to have your records sealed or have them expunged.

Assuming it is a relatively minor crime and you are only seeking to have them sealed, it might be 2 to 5 years.

Expungement generally entails far more significant prerequisites; for instance, you might have to wait many years with absolutely no other criminal behavior, or even get a pardon from the state governor or the president before you can seek expungement for some crimes.

It all just depends. For that reason, you’ll definitely want to contact a seasoned attorney that is fluent in these matters to help you. That’s pretty much the only way to get it done…

Depending on the Incident, You Might Not Have Charges Appear on Your Record

I should also point out that depending on the exact nature of the trespassing incident, you might not have proper charges appear on your record.

For instance, if you get caught trespassing, accidentally let’s say, and the police make contact with you and place you under arrest in the back of a squad car so they can figure out who you are and talk with the property owner, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a trespassing charge on your background.

Generally, if you don’t go to court over something there won’t be a record of it, though it is possible that an arrest and subsequent dismissal might be discoverable.

Similarly, if your case goes all the way to court and then gets thrown out or dropped for whatever reason, those court proceedings very likely will be easily found.

Sure, the case was dropped and you were neither found guilty nor innocent, but it can raise eyebrows in certain circles and might be worth trying to get sealed or expunged all the same.

The Thoroughness of the Background Check Might Determine Whether or Not Incidents Appear

Here’s the last bit of advice I’ll give you on the matter: not all background checks are equal in thoroughness.

Some are cursory, of the kind performed by most employers if you are making $100k a year or less unless you are working in a high-security environment or a sensitive occupation.

Most of the time sealed records will be adequate in these instances, and expungement will reliably make your record as clean as a whistle.

But if you’re making more than $100k a year or you are working in the aforementioned sensitive or high-security environment, or for most government agencies in any law enforcement agency, you’ll be subjected to an extremely thorough FBI background check.

They will certainly be able to peer into any sealed records, and perhaps not even expunged stuff will be completely cleared away.

Again, discuss this with your attorney and tell him what your plans are so you have a realistic expectation of what your “cleanup” can do for you.

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