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Trespassing laws in Indiana are broadly written and identify several types of specific conduct that would constitute a criminal offense.
It is more complex than the criminal trespass statutes of other states, and those facing a trespassing charge would be wise to obtain an experienced Indianapolis trespass lawyer for legal assistance.
Eskew Law has attorneys with years of criminal defense experience and can help you determine the best course of action.
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Types of Trespassing
Indiana’s criminal trespass statute found at Ind. Code § 35-43-2-2 provides that a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of not more than one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000 if he or she, knowingly or intentionally:
- Enters the property of another, without having any contractual interest in the property, after having been denied entry by the owner or the owner’s agent;
- Refuses to leave the property of another, without having any contractual interest therein, after having been asked to leave by the owner or the owner’s agent;
- Rides with another person driving a vehicle, knowing that the driver knowingly or intentionally is not authorized to drive the vehicle;
- Enters the property of an agricultural operation used for production, processing, propagation, cultivation, etc., of an animal, plan, or other agricultural product, without the consent of the owner of the agricultural operation or an authorized person;
- Enters the dwelling of another without his or her consent;
- Travels on a passenger car of a train without lawful authority or the consent of the train carrier;
- Enters the property of another, without having any contractual interest therein, after having been prohibited from entering or asked to leave by a law enforcement officer and the property is vacant or designated as an abandoned property;
- Enters the property of an agricultural operation with facilities used to produce crops, livestock, poultry, livestock products, or for growing timber, as provided by Ind. Code § 32-30-6-1, without permission by the owner or an authorized agent, and knowingly and intentionally damages the property;
- Enters the property of another even though a court has issued an order denying entry to the person or the general public, which is conspicuously posted around the premises and communicates that the property has been designated as a vacant or abandoned property.
If you find yourself being charged for trespassing in any of the aforementioned scenarios, it is important you speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Indianapolis, IN.
By default, criminal trespass in Indiana is a misdemeanor offense, but sometimes the prosecutor can upgrade the charge. Ind. Code § 35-43-2-2 provides certain instances where a criminal trespass is considered a Level 6 felony. In Indiana, a conviction for a Level 6 felony carries a prison term between six months and three years and a fine not exceeding $10,000 under Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7, for offenses, committed:
- On a scientific research facility;
- On a key facility;
- On a facility belonging to a public utility;
- On school property;
- On a school bus; or
- Where the defendant has a prior unrelated conviction for criminal trespassing concerning the same property.
Finally, if the offense involves an agricultural operation as enumerated above, and the defendant causes property damage, the offense is a Level 6 felony if the property damage is more than $750 and less than $50,000.
If the damage amounts to $50,000 or more, it is considered a Level 5 felony which, under Ind. Code § 35-50-2-6, is punishable by a prison term of between one and six years, and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
In any event, consulting a seasoned Indianapolis trespass attorney will enable you to better understand the specific legal options pertaining to your situation.
Criminal Trespassing Arrests
Not all criminal trespassing in Indiana cases are the same, and the circumstances of an arrest can have a major impact on the outcome of a case. For example, there are several ways police might develop a belief that you broke criminal trespassing laws in Indiana. The most common ways these cases arise are when:
- A property owner sees you on their property in real-time; or
- A property owner observes you on their property through surveillance video.
While, generally, the government’s case is weaker if it is based only on video evidence, there are defenses available in either situation. For example, it might be easier to argue that you had permission to be on the property if the owner was present. Of course, if the only evidence against you is video surveillance footage, the government’s case hinges on the clarity of the video. If the footage is unclear and a viewer cannot be certain as to the identity of the person on the video, it opens the door for you to present an alibi defense.
In some criminal trespassing cases, police do not arrest the defendant on the property. For example, if a property owner doesn’t notice someone was on their property until after that person’s left, it can make proving the government’s case much more difficult. An experienced Indianapolis criminal trespass defense attorney can help evaluate all of your options and work with you to develop a strong defense against the allegations.
What to Do if You Are Charged with Criminal Trespass
If you face criminal trespassing charges, the first thing to keep in mind is that you should not give up hope. Just because you were arrested on another’s property does not mean that you committed criminal trespassing, and it certainly doesn’t mean that a judge or jury will find you guilty. Like all criminal offenses, there are defenses that can apply to criminal trespassing charges. Below are a few things that you can do following your arrest to improve your chances of beating the case against you.
Preserve Any Favorable Evidence
Every trespassing case is different; however, if you have any evidence indicating you had permission to be on the property, it is essential that you preserve it. For example, if you have text messages, email, voicemails, or even video evidence supporting your legal ability to be on the property, it can defeat the government’s case. Alternatively, some criminal trespassing cases do not involve an arrest on the property. So if you were not arrested while still on the property in question, any evidence of an alibi could be very strong.
Do Not Contact the Property Owner
In criminal trespassing cases, in particular, it may seem like a good idea to reach out to the property owner to clarify any possible misunderstandings. However, you should never do this. When you reach out to an alleged victim in a criminal case, prosecutors often construe it as witness intimidation. This can make it more challenging to beat your trespassing case, and it might also result in additional criminal charges.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
One of the first things you should do after being arrested for criminal trespassing in Indiana is to reach out to a criminal defense attorney. A criminal trespassing conviction can change the course of your life, and it is essential that you take the charges seriously. Equally important, you should work with an attorney who takes your case as seriously as you do. Even if you were arrested on-site and cannot think up a viable defense on your own, an attorney might have creative solutions in mind to defend the case. They may also be able to convince the prosecution to offer a deal for a less serious offense.
Contact an Indianapolis Trespass Lawyer If You Have Been Charged
To properly defend against a criminal trespass charge, conducting a detailed investigation and extensive analysis of the facts and the law are necessary.
The Indiana criminal trespass law firm of Eskew Law can provide you with a trespass attorney experienced in trespass charges and who will review your case to help you best mount an effective defense against prosecution. For more than a decade, we’ve been aggressively representing clients facing all types of crimes, including criminal trespass offenses.
Do not hesitate to contact us by calling (317) 974-0177 or by submitting our online consultation request form.
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