Protecting Your Rights
Va. Code 18.2-119 (Trespassing after being forbidden to do so)
If a landowner or their authorized agents tell a person to leave or to not enter their property and that same person returns or remains on the property then that is trespassing.
There are several ways a landowner can communicate their warning to leave. The first is by posting “no trespassing signs” where the signs may be reasonably seen.
The second way is to orally or in writing tell a person that they are not welcome. The most common way this is accomplished is by have the police deliver a “No Trespass Order” to the person. The police have the suspect sign a piece of paper telling them to stay off the property. If after signing that paper, they enter the property then they are guilty of trespassing.
An authorized agent of the landowner is typically an employee like a property manager. For instance a corporation owns a bar and the bar manager tells you to leave, this satisfies the requirements of this statute.
However, the agent must be authorized. If a waitress tells a customer to leave the property this usually will not satisfy the requirements of the trespassing statute because waitresses typically do not have the authorization to ban people from the premises.
The most common defenses to trespassing involve proving that person has been previously banned from the property or that the “No trespassing” sign was properly posted. However, sometimes the police can forget to verify that the suspect is not the landowner. If the police arrest someone they find in an empty lot the officer generally does not have anyway of proving who the actual land owner is and that the suspect is not the landowner.
Trespassing is a class 1 misdemeanor. Trespassing comes with up to 12 months in jail and $2,500 fine. Trespassing is a criminal offense and will remain on your adult criminal record forever.
However, just because these are the maximum penalties does not mean that you will necessarily go to jail or pay an outrageous fine. Talk to an attorney to fine out the likely outcome of your case.
Va. Code 18.2-132 (Trespassing by hunters and fishermen)
Trespassing while hunting or fishing is not a very common criminal charge but while I was writing this chapter I saw a whole bunch of people get arrested for this charge while fishing after work and so I decided to add it in.
This specialized version of trespassing is different from normal trespassing in a couple ways:
- You must be hunting, trapping or fishing
- Must be on land, water, pond, boat or blind of another person without permission.
Unlike normal trespassing you do not need to have been told to leave and there does not need to be a trespass sign.
Violating this law is a class 3 misdemeanor with no jail time but up to $500 in fines.
If a person commits this crime while there is a No hunting, fishing or trapping sign then they are guilty of violating Va. Code 18.2-134 which is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.