Vermont: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor, Felony.
- Fencing Required?: No.
- Signage Required?: Yes, instead of verbal notice.
- Verbal Notice Required?: Yes, instead of fencing.
Vermont Trespassing Law Overview
- Vermont uses sparse, succinct verbiage to codify their trespass laws.
- There exists potential for trespass inside a dwelling or building to be charged as burglary if it can be proven the person was intending to commit criminal mischief.
- Aside from the above possibility, trespass in Vermont is typically a misdemeanor though felony level charges can be leveled in case of trespass in a dwelling.
- Vermont also has specific statutes covering trespass by vehicle on private roads and state land.
Relevant Vermont State Statutes
- 1201. Burglary
- 3705. Unlawful trespass
- 3738. Obstruction and use of private roads and lands by motor vehicle
- 3739. Operation of vehicles on state owned land
Many states include a section just for definitions in their statutes that will detail all the relevant terms and additional meanings that you need to know when reviewing the law.
Vermont does not when it comes to trespassing, and instead includes all of the definitions strewn throughout the section where required. In this instance, we will begin with the relevant sections immediately.
Of some interest is Vermont’s statutes on burglary. Burglary is typically distinct from simple criminal trespass in most states, and the same is true for Vermont, with the exception that burglary can be defined, as written and potentially, as the unlawful entry of any building or other structure with the intent to commit unlawful mischief.
Even if someone were to enter a building unlawfully and had no genuine intention of committing unlawful mischief, it would not be too awfully difficult for the prosecution to prove that in court in the affirmative:
(a) A person is guilty of burglary if he or she enters any building or structure knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, with the intent to commit a felony, petit larceny, simple assault, or unlawful mischief. This provision shall not apply to a licensed or privileged entry, or to an entry that takes place while the premises are open to the public, unless the person, with the intent to commit a crime specified in this subsection, surreptitiously remains in the building or structure after the license or privilege expires or after the premises no longer are open to the public.
(b) As used in this section:
(1) “Building,” “premises,” and “structure” shall, in addition to their common meanings, include and mean any portion of a building, structure, or premises that differs from one or more other portions of such building, structure, or premises with respect to license or privilege to enter, or to being open to the public.
(2) “Occupied dwelling” means a building used as a residence, either full time or part time, regardless of whether someone is actually present in the building at the time of entry.
(c)(1) A person convicted of burglary shall be imprisoned not more than 15 years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both.
(2) A person convicted of burglary and who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, shall be imprisoned not more than 20 years or fined not more than $10,000.00, or both.
(3) A person convicted of burglary into an occupied dwelling:
(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 25 years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both; or
(B) shall be imprisoned not more than 30 years or fined not more than $10,000.00, or both, if the person carried a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, during commission of the offense.
(4) When imposing a sentence under this section, the court shall consider as an aggravating factor whether, during commission of the offense, the person entered the building when someone was actually present or used or threatened to use force against the occupant.
This represents a significant cause for concern if one were to trespass inside an occupied dwelling, even accidentally, and then charges be filed according to the statute above.
Normally, I do not cover burglary statutes in trespassing law review articles, but Vermont, in keeping with their custom on most of their statutes, writes their laws in a fairly generalist, open-ended way.
This means that overcharging for a lesser crime is not entirely out of the question, and in this case you could be looking at significant fines and lengthy jail terms! Better safe than sorry, and so I thought it best to include it here.
Next is Section 3705, the first proper trespass statute covering Unlawful Trespass:
3705. Unlawful trespass
(a)(1) A person shall be imprisoned for not more than three months or fined not more than $500.00, or both, if, without legal authority or the consent of the person in lawful possession, he or she enters or remains on any land or in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
(A) actual communication by the person in lawful possession or his or her agent or by a law enforcement officer acting on behalf of such person or his or her agent;
(B) signs or placards so designed and situated as to give reasonable notice; or
(C) in the case of abandoned property:
(i) signs or placards, posted by the owner, the owner’s agent, or a law enforcement officer, and so designed and situated as to give reasonable notice; or
(ii) actual communication by a law enforcement officer.
(2) As used in this subsection, “abandoned property” means:
(A) real property on which there is a vacant structure that for the previous 60 days has been continuously unoccupied by a person with the legal right to occupy it and with respect to which the municipality has by first-class mail to the owner’s last known address provided the owner with notice and an opportunity to be heard; and
(i) property taxes have been delinquent for six months or more; or
(ii) one or more utility services have been disconnected; or
(B) a railroad car that for the previous 60 days has been unmoved and unoccupied by a person with the legal right to occupy it.
(b) Prosecutions for offenses under subsection (a) of this section shall be commenced within 60 days following the commission of the offense and not thereafter.
(c) A person who enters a building other than a residence, whose access is normally locked, whether or not the access is actually locked, or a residence in violation of an order of any court of competent jurisdiction in this State shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $500.00, or both.
(d) A person who enters a dwelling house, whether or not a person is actually present, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so shall be imprisoned for not more than three years or fined not more than $2,000.00, or both.
(e) A law enforcement officer shall not be prosecuted under subsection (a) of this section if he or she is authorized to serve civil or criminal process, including citations, summons, subpoenas, warrants, and other court orders, and the scope of his or her entrance onto the land or place of another is no more than necessary to effectuate the service of process.
Criminal trespass occurs when a person enters into any place or any building that they know they do not have privilege or authorization to be in in defiance of a specific communication to stay out of or remain off of the property, or in defiance of any posted signage barring access.
There are additional specific considerations for trespassing in what Vermont defines as abandoned property that you can read above, but generally you don’t want to be poking around in abandoned buildings either.
Also check out paragraph (d) which states that any person who enters a dwelling house (whether or not a person is residing inside at the time) knowing that they are not licensed or privileged to be in the dwelling shall be imprisoned for not more than 3 years and fined up to $2,000. That is a felony level charge!
Next, obstruction and use of private roads by automobile, covered in Section 3738:
3738. Obstruction and use of private roads and lands by motor vehicle
A person who, by use of a motor vehicle as defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4:
(1) obstructs a private driveway, barway, or gateway; or
(2) travels over a private road that is so marked, or travels over other private lands; or
(3) enters on private lands for the purpose of camping; without the permission of the owner or occupant shall be fined not more than $500.00.
Simple enough. Violating the above statute will result in a fine of $500, no more. Beware of trespassing on private roads and drives, especially in the remote places of Vermont!
More on vehicular trespassing in the next section:
3739. Operation of vehicles on state owned land
(a) A person who operates a motor vehicle, as defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4, on any land that is owned or held by the State:
(1) except in places or on trails specifically designated and marked by the Secretary of Natural Resources; or
(2) contrary to any rule governing the use of the place or trail shall be fined not more than $500.00. For the purposes of this section “land owned or held by the State” does not include a highway as defined in 23 V.S.A. § 4.
(b) The Secretary of Natural Resources may by rule designate a place or trail for use by motor vehicles when it finds that natural, fish and wildlife, and other recreational activities or aesthetic values will not be substantially adversely affected. The Secretary may by rule specify under which weather and trail conditions or at which times or hours of the day designated trails or places may not be used.
Another short, simple section. Taking your vehicle off of any marked and designated trail on state-owned property is worthy of another $500 fine in Vermont.
Make sure you pay attention to what times and seasons trails are open, as driving on an otherwise approved trail when it is closed or out of operation will not save you!
How to Obtain a Trespassing Order in Vermont
To charge someone with trespassing in Vermont and obtain an order of no trespass, the person who is trespassing or suspected to be trespassing must be given notice against doing so. This can be done verbally, or by placing signage around your property notifying anyone approaching that entry is forbidden.
If you know someone’s trespassing after being notified, all you need to do is call the cops or the sheriff’s department and explain the situation. If you have any evidence to support your claim, so much the better, but let them handle making contact with the person and also guide you through the process of filling out any necessary paperwork.
Rules for Posting No-Trespassing Signs in Vermont
Vermont doesn’t require any specific size, color or text on no-trespassing signs so long as the signs give specific notice against unlawful entry. As always, I recommend large, bold and durable signs placed at regular intervals along your property line and also at all specific trails or vehicular entrances.
Vermont is a state with few laws governing trespassing, but what laws exist are broadly written. So long as you take care to stay well away and out of any buildings you don’t own and off of private roads and drives you should have little to worry about.
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.