Criminal trespass is the crime of entering or remaining on a property without permission to do so. There is a distinct difference between criminal trespass and theft crimes. With criminal trespass, you may not have entered or remained on a property with the intent of committing a crime.

You can walk onto someone’s property, climb over a fence, or enter a building. You may remain, or you may leave. The key is that you entered the property without permission. That is what results in the criminal trespass charge.

What Are the Degrees of Criminal Trespass in Kentucky?

There are three degrees of criminal trespass in Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 511. A person can commit criminal trespass in the first, second, or third degree. All of the charges are misdemeanors

First Degree Criminal Trespass is a Class A misdemeanor. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if they “knowingly” and unlawfully enter or remain in a dwelling. 

Second Degree Criminal Trespass is a Class B misdemeanor. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when they “knowingly” and unlawfully enter or remain in a building or on property that provides a notice against trespass with enclosures or fences. 

Third Degree Criminal Trespass is a misdemeanor violation. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree if they “knowingly” and unlawfully enter or remain in or upon premises. 

What Are the Penalties for Criminal Trespass?

All three degrees of criminal trespass are misdemeanors. 

The penalties for convictions of criminal trespass include:

  • Third Degree Criminal Trespass carries a maximum fine of up to $250.
  • Second Degree Criminal Trespass carries a maximum jail sentence of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $250.
  • First Degree Criminal Trespass carries a maximum jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $500.

There is also a charge called Domestic Violence Shelter Trespass. A person is guilty of Domestic Violence Shelter Trespass if they enter the building or premises of a domestic violence shelter when they are subject to an order of protection. In this case, the person knew or should have known the building was a domestic violence shelter.

A defense to this charge is gaining permission from the facility operator to enter the premises after disclosing that the person was subject to an order of protection. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Are There Defenses to Criminal Trespass?

Yes, several defenses might be available if you are charged with criminal trespass.

One of the most common defenses used for criminal trespass is lack of intent. Each crime requires that the person “knowingly” entered the property or remained on the property. You can argue that you did not know you were unlawfully entering the property, and you did not intentionally enter the premises.

You may also argue that you had permission or the owner’s consent to be on the property. Perhaps you were on the property to prevent a public disaster or abate a nuisance. You can also argue mistaken identity.

Why Do I Need to Take Criminal Trespass Charges Seriously?

Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor charge in Kentucky. However, you should not take this criminal charge lightly. A conviction on a charge of criminal trespass can result in jail time and a fine.

The consequences of a conviction for criminal trespass can be far-reaching. Once you plead guilty or you are found guilty after a trial, you have a criminal record. Having a criminal record can have numerous negative consequences on your life.

For example, a criminal record might keep you from getting the job you want or renting in the neighborhood you desire. Employers and landlords often require criminal background checks. 

A criminal record could also have a negative impact on child custody cases and education opportunities. Depending on the level of the crime, you could lose your gun rights because of a criminal conviction.

Instead of pleading guilty or trying to handle the criminal charges on your own, you might want to consider speaking with a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney will review your case, explain your legal rights, and give you options for handling the matter based on the facts of your case.

Your future could be in jeopardy. It is worth your time to seek legal advice before deciding how to proceed with your criminal case.