Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary defines trespass as the act of entering a person’s property without consent. It states that trespass may be either a tort or a crime. A tort is a civil wrong that may result in a lawsuit. Criminal trespass may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, both punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.
The Recreational Trespass Act applies to specific types of trespass. One type of recreational trespass involves a person entering the non-farming property of another to engage in recreational activity without the owner’s consent. That type of property must be either fenced or otherwise enclosed, or posted with a sign prohibiting trespassing that meets certain requirements. Another type of recreational trespass involves a person entering farm property, and wooded areas connected to it, for any recreational activity without the owner’s consent. Farm property does not need to be fenced, otherwise enclosed or contain a posted sign prohibiting trespassing. There are exceptions to both types of trespassing, involving anglers and retrieval of hunting dogs. The act also addresses consent given by a property owner and amendment or withdrawal of consent. Under Michigan law, recreational trespass may result in either a civil action by a property owner or a misdemeanor criminal action.
Under the Michigan Penal Code, some acts of trespassing are misdemeanors and others are felonies. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine or both. Common trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 30 days, a fine up to $250 or both. Michigan law also defines other types of trespassing as misdemeanors but does not specify punishment. They include willful trespass by cutting or destroying property; willful trespass by entering improved land of another; trespass upon cranberry, huckleberry and blackberry marshes; trespass on vineyards, orchards or gardens; and trespass injuring and destroying medicinal plants.
A felony is a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than one year, a fine or both. Michigan law classifies two types of trespassing as felonies. Trespassing on the property of a state correctional facility is a felony punishable by imprisonment up to four years, a fine up to $2,000 or both. Trespassing on the property of a “key facility” is a felony punishable by imprisonment up to four years, a fine up to $2,500 or both. Examples of key facilities include refineries, utilities, water intake or treatment plants, fuel storage terminals and hazardous waste facilities. A key facility must have a sign prohibiting trespassing that meets certain requirements.