While you may understand the general concept of trespassing, you may not realize that it is a crime in North Carolina—until you are arrested and charged with this offense. Trespass offenses are less serious than the crimes of burglary or breaking and entering but should not be taken lightly. You could be sentenced to jail or prison and would have a permanent criminal record, which could limit your ability to obtain a job, affordable housing, a loan, and more, long after you fulfill the terms of your sentence. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you raise defenses to these charges—even if you are guilty—so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Trespassing Charges You Can Face in Charlotte
In general, a person commits trespassing by knowingly entering another person’s property without permission. Depending on the facts surrounding the trespass, a person can be charged with a number of different offenses. These crimes include the following:
- First-degree trespass. To be found guilty of first-degree trespass, a person must have entered or remained on the property or building of another that was secured or enclosed in a manner that showed the owner’s intent to keep out intruders. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor with a possible sentence of up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Second-degree trespass. A person may be arrested for second-degree trespass if he was asked by the owner not to remain on the property or signs were indicating that intruders were not welcome, such as a no trespassing sign. Second-degree trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a sentence of 20 days in jail and a $200 fine.
- Trespass on a utility company. If the trespass occurs at an electric utility supplier, public water system facility, or natural gas entity and the person entered a building or went through a barrier, such as a fence, the first-degree trespass charge could be classified as an A1 misdemeanor. Upon conviction, a person could be sentenced to up to 150 days in jail and a fine in the judge’s discretion.
- Felony trespass. Trespass on a utility company can be charged as a Class H felony if the trespasser’s intent was to disrupt the normal operations of the facility and his actions put others in danger of serious bodily injury. This offense can result in a sentence of 39 months in prison.
What Is Domestic Criminal Trespass?
A separate type of trespass crime in North Carolina is domestic criminal trespass. This offense involves people who were in a relationship together, such as spouses, former spouses, or two individuals who were living together. To be charged with this crime, the parties must be living apart and the person must have entered or remained on the property of the victim after having been forbidden to do so. There must be some evidence that the individuals are living apart, such as an order of separation, a court order requiring one party to remain off the property, or separate residences.
Domestic criminal trespass is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a fine in the judge’s discretion. However, the charge can be elevated to a Class G felony if the property is a safe house or a haven for domestic violence victims and the trespasser has a deadly weapon. If convicted, a person could be sentenced to up to 47 months in prison.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Charlotte Today
If you are facing trespass or domestic trespass charges, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Browning & Long, PLLC, our lawyers have the skill and resources to help you mount a strong defense to the charges you face. We are former prosecutors, which is an added advantage. Schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your possible defenses and how we can help you to fight these charges. Call our Charlotte office or fill out our online form to set your appointment today.