We have all seen these signs! However, we may not have all stopped to consider the law and potential consequences involved of ignoring them. In Washington State, criminal trespassing is classified into two degrees. Criminal Trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor and Criminal Trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor.
Under RCW 9A.52.070:
- A person is guilty of Criminal Trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building.
- As a gross misdemeanor, a conviction may carry a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine. (RCW 9.92.020)
Under RCW 9A.52.080:
- A person is guilty of Criminal Trespass in the second degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree.
- As a misdemeanor, a conviction may carry a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine (RCW 9a.20.021)
Criminal Trespass Defense:
There are several defenses to Criminal Trespassing crimes, as outlined in RCW 9a.52.090.
- A building involved in an offense under RCW 9A.52.070 was abandoned; or
- The premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or
- The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain; or
- The actor was attempting to serve legal process which includes any document required or allowed to be served upon persons or property, by any statute, rule, ordinance, regulation, or court order, excluding delivery by the mails of the United States. This defense applies only if the actor did not enter into a private residence or other building not open to the public and the entry onto the premises was reasonable and necessary for service of the legal process.
In addition to the misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor penalties listed above, conviction of criminal trespassing may result in a mark on your permanent criminal record. It is advised that you contact an experienced, skillful criminal defense attorney to argue the most appropriate defense in your case, in order to elicit the most optimal outcome. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.