Utah: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land, Vehicles
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor
- Fencing Required?: No, but counts as required notice against entry.
- Signage Required?: No, but counts as required notice against entry.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No, but counts as required notice against entry.
Utah Trespassing Law Overview
- Trespassing in Utah is a misdemeanor.
- Utah’s laws have comprehensive prohibitions regarding operation of drones over private property.
- Utah contains several specific statutes restricting access to abandoned mines, state parks and other lands.
- Utah requires some form of notice against entry for criminal trespassing charges to apply on most forms of private property. See below.
Relevant Utah State Statutes
- 76-6-201. Definitions.
- 76-6-206. Criminal trespass.
- 76-6-206.1. Criminal trespass of abandoned or inactive mines, Penalty.
- 76-6-206.2. Criminal trespass on state park lands, Penalties.
- 76-6-206.3. Criminal trespass on agricultural land or range land.
- 76-6-206.4. Criminal trespass by long-term guest to a residence.
Time to get started with the definitions. You might think you have a pretty good grip on the English language, but legislators are notorious for altering the meaning of common words for taking on additional meaning that can change the interpretation of entire swaths of the law.
Take no chances. Luckily for us Utah has a short section of definitions at the beginning of this chapter along with a few relevant ones sprinkled throughout the rest of the statutes:
As used in this part:
(a) “Building,” in addition to its ordinary meaning, means any watercraft, aircraft, trailer, or other structure or vehicle adapted for overnight accommodation of persons or for carrying on business and includes:
(i) each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle; and
(ii) each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.
(b) “Building” does not include a railroad car.
(2) “Dwelling” means a building which is usually occupied by a person lodging in the building at night, whether or not a person is actually present.
(3) “Enter or remain unlawfully” means a person enters or remains in or on any premises when:
(a) at the time of the entry or remaining, the premises or any portion of the premises are not open to the public; and
(b) the actor is not otherwise licensed or privileged to enter or remain on the premises or any portion of the premises.
(4) “Enter” means:
(a) intrusion of any part of the body; or
(b) intrusion of any physical object under control of the actor.
(5) “Railroad car”:
(a) in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes a sleeping car or any container or trailer that is on a railroad car; and
(b) includes only a railroad car that is operable and part of an ongoing railroad operation.
You will notice reading the above that Utah’s definition for “building” includes its typical meaning but also the added connotation that it is a structure intended for the overnight occupation of people sleeping therein.
This also includes a vehicle adapted for the same purpose, no matter what type. The definition for dwelling in this case is largely redundant, but will appear specifically throughout the statutes, so be aware of it.
Utah defines entering or remaining unlawfully simply as entering or remaining upon any premises that is not open to the public when a person knows they are unlicensed or otherwise unauthorized to be on the premises at the time.
Also, “enter” specifically means the intrusion of any part of the body at any time. This is a fairly broad interpretation that can be applied to violators and all kinds of circumstances, so take no chances messing around on property you know you shouldn’t be on or in while in the State of Utah.
Now on to 76-6-206 which comprises the core of Utah’s trespassing laws:
76-6-206. Criminal trespass.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “Enter” means intrusion of the entire body or the entire unmanned aircraft.
(b) “Remain unlawfully,” as that term relates to an unmanned aircraft, means remaining on or over private property when:
(i) the private property or any portion of the private property is not open to the public; and
(ii) the person operating the unmanned aircraft is not otherwise authorized to fly the unmanned aircraft over the private property or any portion of the private property.
(2) A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, under circumstances not amounting to burglary as defined in Section 76-6-202, 76-6-203, or 76-6-204 or a violation of Section 76-10-2402 regarding commercial obstruction:
(a) the person enters or remains unlawfully on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter
and remain unlawfully over property and:
(i) intends to cause annoyance or injury to any person or damage to any property, including the use of graffiti as defined in Section 76-6-107;
(ii) intends to commit any crime, other than theft or a felony; or
(iii) is reckless as to whether the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s presence will cause fear for the safety of another;
(b) knowing the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s entry or presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter or remain unlawfully over property to which notice against entering is given by:
(i) personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
(ii) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders; or
(iii) posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or
(c) the person enters a condominium unit in violation of Subsection 57-8-7(8).
(a) A violation of Subsection (2)(a) or (b) is a class B misdemeanor unless the violation is committed in a dwelling, in which event the violation is a class A misdemeanor.
(b) A violation of Subsection (2)(c) is an infraction.
(4) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:
(a) the property was at the time open to the public; and
(b) the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining on the property.
Utah is notable for including provisions against the flying of drones, what they call “unmanned aircraft” in the statutes, in the relevant trespassing statutes instead of one just for that.
Criminal Trespass is defined in this section as the entering by a person or by an unmanned aircraft into, onto or over any property where they do not have a legal lawful right to be with the intent to cause annoyance or commit some other crime, or knowingly doing so unlawfully in defiance of a posted notice against entry.
Said notice can take the form of fencing or other barriers to physical entry, posted signs on the property, or a personal written or verbal notice given.
Violating this statute is a misdemeanor, either Class B or Class A depending on which subsection is violated.
Next, the first of a few specific trespassing statutes in Utah, this one covering abandoned or inactive mines which are found in some abundance throughout the state:
76-6-206.1. Criminal trespass of abandoned or inactive mines, Penalty.
(1) For purposes of this section:
(a) “Abandoned or inactive mine” means an underground mine which is no longer open for access or no longer under excavation and has been clearly marked as closed or protected from entry.
(b) “Enter” means intrusion of the entire body.
(2) A person is guilty of criminal trespass of an abandoned or inactive mine if, under circumstances not amounting to burglary as defined in Section 76-6-202, 76-6-203, or 76-6-204:
(a) the person intentionally enters and remains unlawfully in the underground workings of an abandoned or inactive mine; or
(b) intentionally and without authority removes, destroys, or tampers with any warning sign, covering, fencing, or other method of protection from entry placed on, around, or over any mine shaft, mine portal, or other abandoned or inactive mining excavation property.
(3) A violation of Subsection (2)(a) is a class B misdemeanor.
(4) A violation of Subsection (2)(b) is a class A misdemeanor.
Entering any closed, abandoned, blocked or otherwise entry-restricted mine in Utah without authority, or removing, damaging or otherwise tampering with any warning sign or barricade placed over or near the entrance, is trespassing, and a misdemeanor. Exploring abandoned mines is cool, but dangerous and a crime!
Next, a similar statute covering criminal trespass on state park lands:
76-6-206.2. Criminal trespass on state park lands, Penalties.
(1) For purposes of this section:
(a) “Authorization” means specific written permission by, or contractual agreement with, the Division of Parks and Recreation.
(b) “Criminal trespass” means the elements of the crime of criminal trespass, as set forth in Section 76-6-206.
(c) “Division” means the Division of Parks and Recreation, created in Section 79-4-201.
(d) “State park lands” means all lands administered by the division.
(2) A person is guilty of criminal trespass on state park lands and is liable for the civil damages prescribed in Subsection (5) if, under circumstances not amounting to a greater offense, and without authorization, the person:
(a) constructs improvements or structures on state park lands;
(b) uses or occupies state park lands for more than 30 days after the cancellation or expiration of authorization;
(c) knowingly or intentionally uses state park lands for commercial gain;
(d) intentionally or knowingly grazes livestock on state park lands, except as provided in Section 72-3-112; or
(e) remains, after being ordered to leave by someone with actual authority to act for the division, or by a law enforcement officer.
(3) A person is not guilty of criminal trespass if that person enters onto state park lands:
(a) without first paying the required fee; and
(b) for the sole purpose of pursuing recreational activity.
(4) A violation of Subsection (2) is a class B misdemeanor.
(5) In addition to restitution, as provided in Section 76-3-201, a person who commits any act described in Subsection (2) may also be liable for civil damages in the amount of three times the value of:
(a) damages resulting from a violation of Subsection (2);
(b) the water, mineral, vegetation, improvement, or structure on state park lands that is removed, destroyed, used, or consumed without authorization;
(c) the historical, prehistorical, archaeological, or paleontological resource on state park lands that is removed, destroyed, used, or consumed without authorization; or
(d) the consideration which would have been charged by the division for unauthorized use of the land and resources during the period of trespass.
(6) Civil damages under Subsection (5) may be collected in a separate action by the division, and shall be deposited in the State Parks Fees Restricted Account as established in Section 79-4-402.
If you enter on to park lands and remain there for more than 30 days after your authorization to be there ends, or otherwise construct any structure or “improvement” on the lands of the park, you are guilty of criminal trespass.
Interestingly, you are also guilty of trespassing if you deliberate graze pasture animals on the lands of the park, refuse to leave after being lawfully told to do so by an authorized agent of the park or law enforcement officer, or use the park unlawfully for commercial gain, but not for entering the park without paying the required entry fee so long as you are doing so only for recreational purpose. How about that?
Utah also has a section just for covering trespassing on agricultural land or range land:
76-6-206.3. Criminal trespass on agricultural land or range land.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “Agricultural or range land” and “land” mean land as defined under Subsections (1)(d) and (e).
(b) “Authorization” means specific written permission by, or contractual agreement with, the owner or manager of the property.
(c) “Criminal trespass” means the elements of the crime of criminal trespass under Section 76-6-206.
(d) “Land in agricultural use” has the same meaning as in Section 59-2-502.
(e) “Range land” means privately owned land that is not fenced or divided into lots and that is generally unimproved. This land includes land used for livestock.
(2) A person is guilty of the class B misdemeanor criminal offense of criminal trespass on agricultural or range land and is liable for the civil damages under Subsection (5) if, under circumstances not amounting to a greater offense, and without authorization or a right under state law, the person enters or remains on agricultural or range land regarding which notice prohibiting entry is given by:
(a) personal communication to the person by the owner of the land, an employee of the owner, or a person with apparent authority to act for the owner;
(b) fencing or other form of enclosure a reasonable person would recognize as intended to exclude intruders; or
(c) posted signs or markers that would reasonably be expected to be seen by persons in the area of the borders of the land.
(3) A person is guilty of the class B misdemeanor criminal offense of cutting, destroying, or rendering ineffective the fencing of agricultural or range land if the person willfully cuts, destroys, or renders ineffective any fencing as described under Subsection (2)(b).
(4) In addition to restitution, as provided in Section 76-3-201, a person who commits any violation of Subsection (2) or (3) may also be liable for:
(a) statutory damages in the amount of the value of damages resulting from the violation of Subsection (2) or $500, whichever is greater; and
(b) reasonable attorney fees not to exceed $250, and court costs.
(5) Civil damages under Subsection (4) may be collected in a separate action by the owner of the agricultural or range land or the owner’s assignee.
This section is much the same as the first one be covered on criminal trespassing, in that unlawfully entering range land in defiance of notice prohibiting entry is trespassing.
In this case, as with others in the state of Utah, notice can be a written or verbal communication, posted signs around the perimeter of the property, or fencing or some other barricade that is manifestly designed to exclude intruders.
Also, a specific violation of this section is the destruction or disruption of any fencing or other barricade surrounding range land. Violating the prohibitions of the statue will result in misdemeanor charges.
Lastly, we come to section 76-6-206.4 which details criminal trespass by a long term guest to a residence:
76-6-206.4. Criminal trespass by long-term guest to a residence.
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “Long-term guest” means an individual who is not a tenant but who is given express or implied permission by the person who is the primary occupant of the residence or someone with apparent authority to act for the primary occupant to enter a portion of a residence or temporarily occupy a portion of a residence:
(i) for a period of time longer than 48 hours; and
(ii) without providing the owner or primary occupant of the residence compensation or entering into an agreement that the individual provide labor in lieu of providing the owner or primary occupant compensation for occupying the residence.
(b) “Residence” means an improvement to real property used or occupied as a primary or secondary dwelling.
(c) “Tenant” means a person who has the right to occupy a residence under a rental agreement or lease, or has a tenancy by operation of law.
(2) A long-term guest is guilty of criminal trespass of a residence if, under circumstances not amounting to burglary as defined in Section 76-6-202, 76-6-203, or 76-6-204, the long-term guest remains in a residence after the long-term guest receives notice against remaining in the residence by personal communication to the long-term guest by the person who is the primary occupant of the residence or someone with apparent authority to act for the primary occupant.
(3) A violation of Subsection (2) is a class B misdemeanor.
(4) Before a law enforcement officer escorts an individual from a residence for a violation of this section, the law enforcement officer shall provide the individual a reasonable time for the individual to collect the individual’s personal belongings.
Very simply stated, any person who is a guest staying in the house of someone else who is not a leasee or legal tenant must leave when asked by the primary resident or their authorized agent or representative, or else they can be trespassed and charged with a misdemeanor.
As you might expect, some couch-surfing people don’t want to go when they don’t have to, and this can prevent squatting, hopefully.
Utah’s trespassing laws are fairly easy to understand, and are mostly noteworthy for their inclusion of drones in their prohibitions right alongside people.
Utah also has a handful of specific state statutes that restrict trespassing on park land, abandoned mines and surrounding properties, and agricultural or range land specifically. No matter what kind of trespassing we are talking about, though it is a misdemeanor in Utah.
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.