August 7, 2022 | Kentucky Law
You commit trespass when you knowingly enter another person’s land or property without permission. Criminal trespass in Kentucky is generally a misdemeanor offense, but there are situations in which you could be charged with felony trespass.
You should not ignore criminal trespass charges. Depending on the circumstances, you could face significant jail time for a criminal trespass conviction.
How Does Kentucky Law Define Criminal Trespass?
You could be charged under one of the three statutes for criminal trespass. There is also a statute governing domestic violence shelter criminal trespass.
Third Degree Criminal Trespass
Third-degree criminal trespass occurs when you knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in or upon another party’s property. Criminal trespass in the third degree is a violation.
However, if you trespass during a declared emergency caused by a disaster in the disaster area, the charge would be a Class B misdemeanor.
The penalty for criminal trespass in the third degree is a fine of up to $250.
Second Degree Criminal Trespass
Second-degree criminal trespass occurs when you knowingly enter or remain unlawfully upon premises or in a building that has a notice against trespass as evidenced by fencing or other enclosure. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanor.
However, the offense increases to a Class A misdemeanor if the trespass occurs during a declared state of emergency because of a disaster in the area covered by the disaster.
The penalty for criminal trespass in the second degree is a fine of up to $250 and/or up to 90 days in jail.
First Degree Criminal Trespass
First-degree criminal trespass occurs when you knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a dwelling. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.
However, the offense increases to a Class D felony if you commit trespass during a declared emergency for a disaster. The trespass must occur in the area impacted by the disaster for the offense to be a Class D felony.
The penalty for criminal trespass in the first degree is a fine of up to $500 and/or up to one year in jail.
Criminal Trespass in a Domestic Violence Shelter
Kentucky has a separate criminal trespass statute when the trespass occurs in a domestic violence shelter. A person can be found guilty of domestic violence shelter criminal trespass when:
- The person enters the premises of or a building at a domestic violence shelter that the person knew or should have known was a domestic violence shelter OR premises clearly marked as a domestic violence shelter; AND,
- The person was subject to an order of protection defined under KRS §456.010 and KRS §403.720.
Trespass of a domestic violence shelter is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction under this statute could result in a fine of up to $500 and/or up to one year in jail.
However, the statute states that the person can use permission given by the shelter’s operator as a defense to the charge of criminal trespass in a domestic violence shelter. The person must have gained permission from the shelter’s operator after telling the operator they are the subject of an order of protection. Permission must come directly from the shelter’s operator.
What Are the Possible Defenses To Criminal Trespass Charges in Kentucky?
Trespass can occur on private, commercial, or public property. There do not need to be signs prohibiting trespassing, and the owner does not need to tell you that you cannot enter. If you enter without permission or remain after being told to leave, you can be charged with trespassing.
However, the statutes require that you knowingly entered another party’s property or unlawfully remained on the property without permission. Therefore, one possible defense is that you did not intentionally enter the property.
Other defenses to criminal trespass include:
- Mistaken identity
- You had to enter the property to prevent a public disaster
- You were on the property to stop a nuisance
- The owner gave you permission to be on the property
- You had a legal right to be on the property
The facts of the case determine the type of defense you should use in a criminal case. For example, you may also have defenses based on violations of your constitutional rights, police misconduct, or procedural errors.
Your best step is to seek legal advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer investigates the circumstances of your arrest to determine the best way to fight the trespass charges.
A criminal conviction on your record can have collateral consequences for your future. Serving any amount of time in jail could jeopardize your job and place a strain on your family. A criminal defense attorney in Louisville can help you fight criminal charges to keep your criminal history clean.