Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Explains: Criminal Trespass in Virginia
In Virginia, Trespassing on private property is a criminal offense punished as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Virginia Code Section 18.2-119 is the trespass statute and it says, in pertinent part:
If any person without authority of law goes upon or remains upon the lands, buildings or premises of another, or any portion or area thereof, after having been forbidden to do so, either orally or in writing, by the owner, lessee, custodian, or the agent of any such person, or other person lawfully in charge thereof, or after having been forbidden to do so by a sign or signs posted by or at the direction of such persons or the agent of any such person…or if any person, whether he is the owner, tenant or otherwise entitled to the use of such land, building or premises, goes upon, or remains upon such land, building or premises after having been prohibited from doing so by a court of competent jurisdiction by an order issued…he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. This section shall not be construed to affect in any way the provisions of §§ 18.2-132 through 18.2-136.
A person who is the lawful possessor of real property (land, a building, or house) has the right to control access to the property. This means that they can deny access to any person, if they so choose. A person asked to leave another's property, either orally or in writing, and refuses is committing a criminal Trespass. A person who enters the property of another after being given a written or oral ban notice, or in violation of a posted sign, is also committing a criminal Trespass.
The person who denies access to an individual must have authority to do so. This means they must be empowered by the owner, or be the owner, to trespass people from the land or structure. An employee, for example, cannot necessarily trespass a customer. And one customer cannot necessarily trespass another customer. Further, a house guest cannot trespass another house guest, unless given permission to do so by the lawful possessor (tenant, owner, agent). It is not a criminal trespass to refuse to leave a premises unless the person asking you to do so has authority. This issue can be a significant defense to a charge of trespass. There are other defenses as well.
If you are charged with Trespassing you may be eligible for a deferred disposition. This means if you satisfy a term of probation the Court will dismiss your case.
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If you have been charged with Trespassing, contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney today. George Freeman is an experienced and seasoned trial attorney and will gladly meet with you to discuss your case.