West Virginia: Fast Facts on Trespassing
- Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land, Vehicles
- Crime Class: Misdemeanor, Felony
- Fencing Required?: No, but qualifies certain offenses.
- Signage Required?: Yes, for certain types of property.
- Verbal Notice Required?: No, but counts as notice to stay away or depart.
West Virginia Trespassing Law Overview
- West Virginia’s relevant trespassing statutes are lengthy, and spread across two chapters. Careful reading is a must to ensure you don’t miss anything important.
- West Virginia has specific trespass laws governing entry on to railroad property, university property, mines, and other government property.
- Trespassing typically results in misdemeanor charges in the state but certain crimes are felonies.
Relevant West Virginia State Statutes
- 61-3B-1. Definitions
- 61-3-11. Burglary; Entry of Dwelling or Outhouse; Penalties
- 61-3-12. Entry of Building Other Than Dwelling; Entry of Railroad, Traction or Motorcar, Steamboat, or Other Vessel; Penalties; Counts in Indictment
- 61-3-28. Offenses Against Railroad Property and Persons on Railroad Property; Definitions
- 61-3-30. Removal, Injury to or Destruction of Property, Monuments Designating Land Boundaries and of Certain No Trespassing Signs; Penalties
- 61-3-33. Entry Upon Inclosed Lands; Penalty; Liability for Damages
- 61-3-43. Jumping on or Off Car or Train in Motion; Driving Vehicle Upon Track or Bridge Except at Crossings; Penalty
- 61-3B-2. Trespass in Structure or Conveyance
- 61-3B-3. Trespass on Property Other Than Structure or Conveyance
- 61-3B-4. Trespass on Student Residence Premises or Student Facility Premises of an Institution of Higher Education
- 61-3B-5. Trespass on State Government Property; Aiding and Abetting; Penalties
- 61-3B-6. Mine Trespass; Penalties
Whenever you want to review a state’s legal statutes it is in your best interest to begin with the definitions. Legal definitions, or rather definitions contained in a legal document, can be tricky.
If they have been ascribed any additional meaning, or their meaning falls outside what is commonly encountered in typical usage it might change the interpretation or the scope open entire statute!
West Virginia has a set of definitions covering trespassing found about halfway through the chapter. I have moved it to the beginning of this article for convenience and clarity.
Most of the state’s statutes are fairly short, but the definition section is lengthy and contains many important terms that will be used more or less constantly, so I am inserting my commentary throughout this part between breaks:
As used in this article:
(1) “Structure” means any building of any kind, either temporary or permanent, which has a roof over it, together with the curtilage thereof.
(2) “Conveyance” means any motor vehicle, vessel, railroad car, railroad engine, trailer, aircraft or sleeping car, and “to enter a conveyance” includes taking apart any portion of the conveyance.
(3) An act is committed “in the course of committing” if it occurs in an attempt to commit the offense or in flight after the attempt or commission.
(4) “Posted land” is land that has:
(A) Signs placed not more than five hundred feet apart, along and at each corner of the boundaries of the land. The signs shall be reasonably maintained, with letters of not less than two inches in height and the words “no trespassing”. The signs shall be placed along the boundary line and at all roads, driveways and gates of entry onto the posted land so as to be clearly noticeable from outside of the boundary line; or
(B) Boundaries marked with a clearly visible purple painted marking, consisting of one vertical line no less than eight inches in length and two inches in width, and the bottom of the mark not less than three nor more than six feet from the ground or normal water surface. Such marks shall be affixed to immovable, permanent objects that are no more than one hundred feet apart and readily visible to any person approaching the property. Signs shall also be posted at all roads, driveways or gates of entry onto the posted land so as to be clearly noticeable from outside the boundary line.
(C) It is not necessary to give notice by posting on any enclosed land or place not exceeding five acres in area on which there is a dwelling house or property that by its nature and use is obviously private in order to obtain the benefits of this article pertaining to trespass on enclosed lands.
When posting land for the purposes of keeping out trespassers under the law, it must be done in accordance with the definitions above.
One may use signs with the words “no trespassing” printed on it, or visible purple marks painted on any immovable post or other object like a tree according to the standards laid out in the definition.
But do note that one does not have to post any signage on land that is enclosed, less than 5 acres in total area and upon which sits a dwelling, or residence.
(5) “Cultivated land” is that land which has been cleared of its natural vegetation and is presently planted with a crop, orchard, grove, pasture or trees or is fallow land as part of a crop rotation.
(6) “Fenced land” is that land which has been enclosed by a fence of substantial construction, whether with rails, logs, post and railing, iron, steel, barbed wire, other wire or other material, which stands at least three feet in height. For the purpose of this article, it shall not be necessary to fence any boundary or part of a boundary of any land which is formed by water and is posted with signs pursuant to the provisions of this article.
As you can read in (6), above fencing can be almost anything so long as the fencing is at least three feet high. If the land in question is bordered by water, it need not be fenced so long as signs are posted in accordance to the standards set out above.
(7) Where lands are posted, cultivated or fenced as described herein, then such lands, for the purpose of this article, shall be considered as enclosed and posted.
(8) “Trespass” under this article is the willful unauthorized entry upon, in or under the property of another, but shall not include the following:
(A) Entry by the state, its political subdivisions or by the officers, agencies or instrumentalities thereof as authorized and provided by law.
(B) The exercise of rights in, under or upon property by virtue of rights-of-way or easements by a public utility or other person owning such right-of-way or easement whether by written or prescriptive right.
(C) Permissive entry, whether written or oral, and entry from a public road by the established private ways to reach a residence for the purpose of seeking permission shall not be trespass unless signs are posted prohibiting such entry.
If you are seeking to gain permission to be on someone’s private property, or land that is otherwise posted to keep out trespassers, it is not considered trespassing to access the residence of the owner via public roadways and their private driveway unless they have posted specifically worded signage barring even that entry!
If you encounter signage that is highly verbose and specific about “no visitors, no trespassers and this means you!”, you can’t even go up and knock.
(D) Entry performed in the exercise of a property right under ownership of an interest in, under or upon such property.
(E) Entry where no physical damage is done to property in the performance of surveying to ascertain property boundaries, and in the performance of necessary work of construction, maintenance and repair of a common property line fence, or buildings or appurtenances which are immediately adjacent to the property line and maintenance of which necessitates entry upon the adjoining owner’s property.
With the definitions out of the way we move into section 61-3-11, which covers burglary and the entry of any dwelling or outhouse.
Typically I do not include the burglary statutes in these legal review articles, but every once in a while you encounter a state with statutes worded so broadly and generally that is not out of the question one could potentially be tagged with a burglary charge for entering some building when it would otherwise be simple trespass.
For that reason, and for completeness, I have decided to include this statute here:
61-3-11. Burglary; Entry of Dwelling or Outhouse; Penalties
(a) Any person who breaks and enters, or enters without breaking, a dwelling house or outbuilding adjoining a dwelling with the intent to commit a violation of the criminal laws of this state is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than 15 years.
(b) The term “dwelling house”, as used in §61-3-11(a) of this code, includes, but is not limited to, a mobile home, house trailer, modular home, factory-built home, or self-propelled motor home, used as a dwelling regularly or only from time to time, or any other nonmotorized vehicle primarily designed for human habitation and occupancy and used as a dwelling regularly or only from time to time.
The point of most concern is paragraph (a), specifically where it mentions entering any dwelling, even one that is unlocked, for the purposes of violating other criminal laws in the state.
Now that sounds pretty clear-cut, and I don’t think any of our readers would do such a thing lightly.
The fact remains that every law that is on the books is potentially a hungry pair of handcuffs that is looking for a person the clamp down on, and stranger things have happened than seemingly innocuous events, even accidental ones, resulting in charges for otherwise innocent citizens.
Be advised – falling afoul of this section is a felony charge with a lengthy prison sentence.
Next up is a related section covering entry into any building other than a dwelling:
61-3-12. Entry of Building Other Than Dwelling; Entry of Railroad, Traction or Motorcar, Steamboat, or Other Vessel; Penalties; Counts in Indictment
If any person shall, at any time, break and enter, or shall enter without breaking, any office, shop, storehouse, warehouse, banking house, or any house or building, other than a dwelling house or outhouse adjoining thereto or occupied therewith, any railroad or traction car, propelled by steam, electricity or otherwise, any steamboat or other boat or vessel, or any commercial, industrial or public utility property enclosed by a fence, wall, or other structure erected with the intent of the property owner of protecting or securing the area within and its contents from unauthorized persons, within the jurisdiction of any county in this state, with intent to commit a felony or any larceny, he or she shall be deemed guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be confined in a state correctional facility not less than one nor more than 10 years. And if any person shall, at any time, break and enter, or shall enter without breaking, any automobile, motorcar, or bus, with like intent, within the jurisdiction of any county in this state, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not less than two nor more than 12 months and be fined not exceeding $100.
An indictment for burglary may contain one or more counts for breaking and entering, or for entering without breaking, the house or building mentioned in the count for burglary under the provisions of this section and §61-3-11 of this code.
As you can see, this section has much to do with the previous one, where entering any place other than a dwelling, even if you do so without breaking and entering, is still a misdemeanor charge that can result in up to a year in jail, and a fine of up to $100.
If it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you entered with the intention of committing some other crime you are facing felony charges again.
Next is the first of many specific trespassing statutes, this one covering offenses against railroad property:
61-3-28. Offenses Against Railroad Property and Persons on Railroad Property; Definitions
(a) As used in this section:
(1) “Bodily injury” means substantial physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical injury.
(2) “Railroad” means any form of nonhighway ground transportation that runs on rails or electromagnetic guideways, including:
(i) Commuter or other short-haul railroad passenger service in a metropolitan or suburban area; and
(ii) High-speed ground transportation systems that connect metropolitan areas but does not include rapid transit operations in an urban area that are not connected to the general railroad system of transportation;
(3) “Railroad carrier” means a person providing railroad transportation; railroad carrier including a right-of-way, track, bridge, yard, shop, station, tunnel, viaduct, trestle, depot, warehouse, terminal, railroad signal system, train control system, centralized dispatching system, or any other structure, appurtenance, or equipment owned, leased, or used in the operation of any railroad carrier including a train, locomotive, engine, railroad car, work equipment, rolling stock, or safety device. “Railroad property” does not include administrative buildings, administrative offices, or administrative office equipment;
(4) “Right-of-way” means the track or roadbed owned, leased, or operated by a railroad carrier which is located on either side of its tracks and which is readily recognizable to a reasonable person as being railroad property or is reasonably identified as such by fencing or appropriate signs;
(5) “Yard” means a system of parallel tracks, crossovers, and switches where railroad cars are switched and made up into trains, and where railroad cars, locomotives and other rolling stock are kept when not in use or when awaiting repairs.
(b) Whoever willfully damages or attempts to damage railroad property or willfully endangers or attempts to endanger the safety of another, by:
(1) Taking, removing, altering, or otherwise vandalizing a railroad sign, placard or marker;
(2) Throwing or dropping an object capable of causing significant damage to railroad property at or on a locomotive, railroad car or train;
(3) Shooting a firearm or other dangerous weapon at a locomotive, railroad car or train;
(4) Removing appurtenances from, damaging, or otherwise impairing the operation of any railroad signal system, including a train control system, centralized dispatching system, or highway-railroad grade crossing warning signal, on a railroad owned, leased, or operated by any railroad carrier, and without consent of the railroad carrier involved;
(5) Interfering or tampering with, or obstructing in any way, or threatening to interfere with, tamper with or obstruct in any way any railcar or locomotive, switch, frog, rail, roadbed, sleeper, viaduct, bridge, trestle, culvert, embankment, structure, or appliance pertaining to or connected with any railroad carrier without consent of the railroad carrier involved; or
(6) Taking, stealing, removing, changing, adding to, altering, or in any manner interfering with any part of the operating mechanism of any locomotive, engine, tender, coach, car, caboose, or motor car used or capable of being used by any railroad carrier in this state without consent of the railroad carrier is guilty of a felony.
If railroad property damage does not exceed $1,000 and no bodily injury occurs to another as a result of any of the aforesaid acts, upon conviction thereof, the person shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $5,000, confined in a regional jail for not more than one year, or both. If bodily injury occurs to another not acting with or in connection with the perpetrator as a result of any of the aforesaid acts or if railroad property damage exceeds $1,000, upon conviction thereof, the person shall be fined not less $1,000 nor more than $10,000, committed to the custody of the Commission of Corrections for not less than one nor more than ten years, or both.
(d) The provisions of this section do not apply to any person employed by a railroad who is performing the duties assigned by the railroad or who is otherwise performing within the scope of his or her employment.
Paragraph (b)(5) is what we are specifically most concerned with in this section, as interfering with or obstructing railroad operations, even if by just your physical presence alone, violates the terms of this section, and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges depending if any bodily injury occurs as a result of your trespassing.
Stay out of rail yards, switching stations and off of railroad tracks unless you have a specific reason to be there. You have been warned!
The next section, 61-3-30 bars anyone from removing posted signage or markings that denote land boundaries:
61-3-30. Removal, Injury to or Destruction of Property, Monuments Designating Land Boundaries and of Certain No Trespassing Signs; Penalties
(a) If any person unlawfully, but not feloniously, takes and carries away, or destroys, injures or defaces any property, real or personal, of another, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $500, or confined in the county or regional jail not more than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.
(b) Any person who unlawfully, willfully and intentionally destroys, injures or defaces the real or personal property of one or more other persons or entities during the same act, series of acts or course of conduct causing a loss in the value of the property in an amount of $2,500 or more, is guilty of the felony offense of destruction of property and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $2,500 or imprisoned in the state correctional facility for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or in the discretion of the court, confined in the county or regional jail not more than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.
(c) If any person breaks down, destroys, injures, defaces or removes any monument erected for the purpose of designating the boundaries of a municipality, tract or lot of land, or any tree marked for that purpose, or any sign or notice upon private property designating no trespassing upon the property, except signs or notices posted in accordance with the provisions and purposes of sections seven, eight and ten, article two, chapter twenty of this code, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $20 nor more than $200, or confined in the county or regional jail not less than one nor more than six months, or both fined and imprisoned. Magistrates have concurrent jurisdiction of all offenses arising under the provisions of this section. The provisions of this paragraph do not apply to the owner, or his or her agent, of the lands on which such signs or notices are posted.
Removing, defacing, covering, carrying away or otherwise obstructing any sign, marking or other such monument used for posting property against trespassing is a misdemeanor, and will see you fined anywhere from $20 to $200 and potentially confined in jail for up to six months. Leave those signs alone.
61-3-33. Entry Upon Inclosed Lands; Penalty; Liability for Damages
If any person shall, without the consent of the owner or occupier thereof, enter upon the inclosed lands of another and do any damage, or shall, without such consent, pull down in whole or in part, or injure, any fence of another, or without permission open and leave open the gate or drawbar of another, or enter upon the inclosed lands of another after being forbidden so to do, or enter thereon and curse, or insult, or annoy, the owner thereof or any person rightfully there, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, be fined not less than five nor more than $100; and, in default of the payment of the fine, the offender may, in the discretion of the judge or justice, be committed to jail for not less than five days. He shall, moreover, be liable to the party injured for the damages sustained by such injury; and it shall be no defense to any prosecution or suit under this section, that such fence was not a lawful fence.
Entering the enclosed lands of any other person with a specific intent to cause mischief or do damage, or merely to open up a hole in their fencing or leave open their gate without their specific permission is a misdemeanor that carries with it a $100 fine, and potentially a five day stint in the pokey.
Back to trains and the tracks they roll on. Section 61-3-43 covers trespassing by jumping onto or off of a moving train as well as by driving any vehicle over the tracks:
61-3-43. Jumping on or Off Car or Train in Motion; Driving Vehicle Upon Track or Bridge Except at Crossings; Penalty
If any person, not a passenger or employee, shall be found trespassing upon any railroad or traction car or train of any railroad in this state, by jumping on or off any car or train in motion, on its arrival at or departure from any station or depot of such railroad, or on the passage of any such car or train over any part of such railroad; or shall drive any horse or any horse-drawn or motor-driven vehicle across or upon any railroad track or bridge, except at public, private or farm crossings, such person so offending shall be deemed a disorderly person and guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $25, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding thirty days, or both. Justices of the peace shall have concurrent jurisdiction to try all offenders under this section.
Acting like a stowaway or driving your vehicle on any railroad tracks except at designated crossings is a misdemeanor that results in a $25 fine, or up to 30 days in jail, or both.
Next, trespass in a structure or conveyance:
61-3B-2. Trespass in Structure or Conveyance
Any person who knowingly enters in, upon or under a structure or conveyance without being authorized, licensed or invited, or having been authorized, licensed or invited is requested to depart by the owner, tenant or the agent of such owner or tenant, and refuses to do so, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100.
If the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon while in the structure or conveyance, with the unlawful and felonious intent to do bodily injury to a human being in said structure or conveyance at the time the offender knowingly trespasses, such offender shall, notwithstanding the provisions of section one, article seven, chapter sixty-one of this code, be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500, or be confined in the county jail for a period not to exceed twelve months, or both such fine and imprisonment.
This statute is as close to a simple trespass statute as West Virginia has, and is violated when a person knowingly enters into or remains upon any property or structure without being authorized or having other legal license, or if having authorization or legal license is then told to leave by the owner or the owner’s authorized agent and refuses.
This is another misdemeanor with a $100 fine, unless the person so offending was armed with a firearm at the time, and can be proven to have had unlawful and felonious intent, in which case they will be fined between $100 and $500, and confined in the county jail for up to 12 months.
61-3B-3. Trespass on Property Other Than Structure or Conveyance
(a) It is an unlawful trespass for any person to knowingly, and without being authorized, licensed or invited, to enter or remain on any property, other than a structure or conveyance, as to which notice against entering or remaining is either given by actual communication to such person or by posting, fencing or cultivation.
(b) First offense conviction. — Upon a first trespassing conviction pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500.
(c) Second offense conviction. — Upon a second trespassing conviction pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,000.
(d) Third offense conviction. — Upon a third and subsequent trespassing conviction pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $1,500.
(e) If the offender defies an order to leave, personally communicated to him or her by the owner, tenant or agent of such owner or tenant, or if the offender opens any door, fence or gate, and thereby exposes animals, crops or other property to waste, destruction or freedom, or causes any damage to property by such trespassing on property other than a structure or conveyance, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500, confined in jail for not more than six months, or both fined and confined.
(f) If the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon with the unlawful and felonious intent to do bodily injury to a human being during his or her commission of the offense of trespass on property other than a structure or conveyance, such offender, notwithstanding section one, article seven, chapter sixty-one of this code, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail for not more than six months, fined not more than $100, or both confined and fined.
(g) Notwithstanding and in addition to any other penalties provided by law, any person who performs or causes damage to property in the course of a willful trespass shall be liable to the property owner in the amount of twice the amount of such damage. However, this article shall not apply in a labor dispute.
Trespassing upon any other property that is posted against trespassing by marks, signs, fencing or some other barricade is a misdemeanor charge with an increasing penalty schedule according to the number of offenses detailed above.
Additionally, refusing to leave when ordered to do so for trespassing while armed with the intent to inflict bodily injury on a human increases the severity of the charges and the fine.
WV also has specific statutes covering trespassing on student residences or other facilities at an “institute of higher learning”:
61-3B-4. Trespass on Student Residence Premises or Student Facility Premises of an Institution of Higher Education
(a) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Residence hall” means housing or a unit of housing provided primarily for students as a temporary or permanent dwelling place or abode and owned, operated or controlled by an institution of higher education.
(2) “Student facility” means a facility owned, operated or controlled by an institution of higher education at which alcoholic liquor or nonintoxicating beer is purchased, sold or served to students enrolled at such institution, but does not include facilities at which athletic events are regularly scheduled and an admission fee is generally charged.
(3) “Institution of higher education” means any state university, state college or state community college under the control, supervision and management of the West Virginia board of trustees or West Virginia board of directors, or any other university, college or institution of higher education in the state subject to rules for accreditation under the provisions of section seven, article four, chapter eighteen-b of this code.
(4) “Person authorized to have access to a residence hall or student facility” means:
(A) A student who resides or dwells in the residence hall; or
(B) An invited guest of a student who resides or dwells in the residence hall; or
(C) A parent, guardian or person who has legal custody of a student who resides or dwells in the residence hall; or
(D) An employee of the institution of higher education who is required by such employment by such institution to be in the residence hall or student facility and who is acting within the scope of his or her employment; or
(E) A delivery person, repair person or other such person who is not an employee of the institution of higher education but who nonetheless has a legitimate commercial reason to be in the residence hall or student facility and who is acting pursuant to such legitimate commercial reason.
(b) If a person authorized to have access to a residence hall or a student facility enters such residence hall or student facility and by such presence or acts interferes with the peaceful or orderly operation of such residence hall or student facility, such person may be asked to leave such residence hall or student facility. If a person not authorized to have access to a residence hall or student facility enters such a residence hall or student facility, that person may be asked to leave such residence hall or student facility notwithstanding the fact that he or she has not interfered with the peaceful or orderly operation of such residence hall or student facility or otherwise committed a breach of the peace or violated any statute or ordinance. Such request to leave may be made by the president or other administrative head of the institution of higher education, an employee designated by the president to maintain order in the residence hall or student facility, a campus police officer appointed pursuant to the provisions of section five, article four, chapter eighteen-b of this code, or a municipal police officer, a sheriff or deputy sheriff, or a member of the West Virginia state police.
(c) It shall be unlawful for a person to remain in a residence hall or student facility after being asked to leave as provided for in subsection (b) of this section.
(d) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (c) of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined $15. For any second or subsequent conviction for a violation occurring within one year after a previous violation for similar conduct, such person shall be fined an amount not to exceed $100.
(e) This section shall not be construed to be in derogation of the common law, nor shall the provisions of this section contravene or infringe upon existing statutes related to the same subject.
If you enter or remain inside any student facility or student housing at an institute of higher learning without authorization or in defiance of an order to leave you can be fined the princely sum of $15, with subsequent violations (within one year) resulting in a fine of up to $100.
There are also WV statutes covering trespass upon government property:
61-3B-5. Trespass on State Government Property; Aiding and Abetting; Penalties
(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this code to the contrary, any person who knowingly and willfully violates an administrative order of a court, a rule or emergency rule promulgated by the secretary of administration, a joint rule of the Senate and House of Delegates or a rule of the Senate or House of Delegates relating to access to government buildings or facilities or portions thereof under their control or who knowingly and willfully aids or abets another to violate such an order, rule or joint rule is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be confined for not more than thirty days or fined more than $500, or both.
(b) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section with the intent to commit a crime which constitutes a misdemeanor is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be confined in a county or regional jail for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000, or both.
(c) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section with the intent to commit a crime which constitutes a felony is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be incarcerated in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than five years or fined not more than $5,000, or both.
Violating the provisions of the above section will see you charged with a misdemeanor if it is done in defiance of any court order, or is done with the intent of committing a misdemeanor crime.
However, if it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you were trespassing upon state government property with the intention of committing a felony that is in itself a felony charge which can see you incarcerated for up to five years along with a $5,000 fine.
Lastly, WV is dead-serious about keeping trespassers out of mines, be they abandoned or operational, above ground or subterranean:
61-3B-6. Mine Trespass; Penalties
(a) A person who willfully enters an underground coal mine, whether active workings, inactive workings, or abandoned workings, without permission, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof shall be imprisoned in a correctional facility not less than one year and nor more than 10 years and shall be fined not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000: Provided, That for any conviction pursuant to this subsection, any inactive or abandoned underground workings must be either: (1) Sealed; or (2) clearly identified by signage at some conspicuous place near the entrance of the mine that includes a notice that the unauthorized entry into the mine is a felony criminal offense.
(b) A person who willfully enters a surface coal mine, whether active workings, inactive workings or abandoned workings, without permission, and with the intent to commit a felony or any larceny, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail not less than one week and not more than one month and shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000. For a second conviction, pursuant to this subsection, the person shall be guilty of a felony and shall be confined in a correctional facility not less than one year and not more than five years and shall be fined not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000. For a third or subsequent conviction, pursuant to this subsection, the person shall be guilty of a felony and shall be confined in a correctional facility not less than five years and not more than 10 years and shall be fined not less than $10,000, nor more than $25,000.
(c) If a person violates subsections (a) or (b) of this section, and during any rescue efforts for any such person, there occurs an injury that causes substantial physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition to any person other than himself or herself, then that person is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail for not less than one week and not more than one year and shall be fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000: Provided, That such jail term shall include actual confinement of not less than seven days.
(d) If a person violates subsections (a) or (b) of this section, and during any rescue efforts for any such person, there occurs an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, causes serious or prolonged disfigurement, prolonged impairment of health, or prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ to any person other than himself or herself, then that person is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in a correctional facility for not less than two nor more than 10 years and shall be fined not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000.
(e) If a person violates subsections (a) or (b) of this section, and during any rescue efforts of such person, the death of any other person occurs, then that person is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in a correctional facility for not less than three nor more than 15 years and shall be fined not less than $10,000 nor more than $25,000.
Talk about serious business. Entering any subterranean coal mine, abandoned or not, without the proper authorization is a felony with a serious fine, and prison term attached to it. This is provided that the mine is posted, blocked or otherwise eclosed in such a way as to preclude intruders.
Entering an above-ground coal mine without authorization, if it can be proven that you were there to commit a felony, is a misdemeanor charge of its own, unless you get yoked up for a second offense in which case it is a felony charge.
It too carries with it a substantial fine and lengthy prison term.
Also noteworthy is the fact that if anyone aside from the person trespassing is injured, maimed or loses their life as a result of the trespass activity or as a result of rescue efforts stemming from the trespass activity then you can be charged with another crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity.
If you are smart you will stay the hell out of mines in West Virginia unless you are a miner or inspector!
West Virginia is a state with many trespass laws spread across two different chapters in their law books.
Most of them are easy enough to understand, and don’t pose much of a challenge to people who are used to reading typical legalese, but a few sections are longer and more intricate, and pertain to specific types of property and activity.
Make sure you take the time to read the entirety of West Virginia trespassing laws so you have a thorough understanding of what might be too close to the edge.