Trespassing is illegal in Michigan and is both a criminal and civil offense. A person arrested for entering a property without the permission of the owner can face misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the circumstances, including injury, damage to property, and the value of the property.
Under Michigan law, penalties can include fines, jail time, or both, and in some instances, the property owner can sue the trespasser.
Trespassing in Michigan
Trespassing is knowingly entering a property belonging to someone else without permission. Knowingly entering the property of another person means being aware of committing this particular act – it doesn't necessarily matter if the trespasser actually knows if it belongs to someone else.
A property owner can file a civil lawsuit against a trespasser to receive compensation for any injury or damages caused by the trespasser. A trespasser can also face criminal charges, ranging from a simple violation to a felony. Penalties include fines, jail time or both.
Trespassing vs. Squatting
Some elements of trespassing and squatting are similar, but they are indeed different acts. Squatters occupy abandoned, foreclosed or unoccupied properties without lawful permission. Trespassing is a criminal act, and squatting is a civil action, but squatting can become criminal if a property owner establishes that the squatter is not welcome on their land.
Both trespassers and squatters can state a false claim to assert their right to be on the property by presenting fraudulent deeds or other false information to the property owner or law enforcement, which is illegal.
Squatters can be strangers to a property owner or someone they know who wants to obtain their land's title. Squatters do have rights in Michigan, but they must fulfill the state's adverse possession requirements for real estate before gaining them. If a squatter does not meet these requirements, they are criminal trespassers and face arrest.
Private Property and Unlawful Dumping
In Michigan, a person cannot:
- Enter the property of another after the owner of that property forbids them from doing so.
- Remain on another's property after the owner gives them notification to depart.
- Enter or stay on another's posted or fenced farmland without the consent of the owner.
A person arrested for doing any of these faces a misdemeanor charge. Penalties include time in county jail for up to 30 days and a fine of $250. A person who trespasses to unlawfully dump or place trash on another's property without their consent also faces a misdemeanor charge.
Trespassing and Destroying or Damaging Property
A person who trespasses to cut down, destroy or injure any plants, trees, shrubs, turf, soil, crops or grass on the property of another faces misdemeanor charges:
- If the property's value is less than $200, the trespasser faces imprisonment for up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500 or both, or three times the value of the property's damage, whichever is higher.
- If the property's value is between $200 and $1,000, or the property's value is less than $200, and the trespasser has one or more previous convictions, they face imprisonment for up to a year, a fine of up to $2,000 or both, or three times the value of the property's damage, whichever is higher.
Felony Trespass Charges
A person who trespasses to cut down, destroy or injure any plants, trees, shrubs, turf, soil, crops or grass on the property of another faces these felony charges:
- If the property's value is $1,000 or more, but less than $20,000, or the trespasser has one or more previous convictions, the trespasser faces imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $10,000 or both, or three times the value of the property's damage, whichever is higher.
- If the property's value is $20,000 or more, or the trespasser has two or more previous convictions, the trespasser faces imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both, or three times the value of the property's damage, whichever is higher.
Trespassing on a State Correctional Facility
In Michigan, a state correctional facility is an institution housing a population of prisoners under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Corrections. A state correctional facility is not a community corrections center or a residential home.
Individuals who willfully enter or remain on property owned by a state correctional facility without permission face a felony charge. This carries penalties of up to four years incarceration, a $2,000 fine, or both.
Michigan's Recreational Trespass Act
The state's Recreational Trespass Act prohibits a person from engaging in recreational activities on someone else's property without permission. According to MCL 324.73102/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-324-73102), a trespasser cannot enter the property of another without permission to engage in recreational activities if the owner has fencing around the property or there are visible "no trespassing" signs.
If the property is agricultural, a trespasser cannot enter private property even if it doesn't have a fence or signs. A property owner can file a lawsuit against violators for $750 or for actual property damages, whichever is higher, with reasonable attorney's fees. This is a misdemeanor, and trespassers are subject to fines, imprisonment and possible restitution to the property owner.
According to MCL 324.81133/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-324-81133), ATV use on a property without the owner's consent holds ATV operators liable for damage or injury. The unauthorized use of snowmobiles on someone else's property is a civil infraction and carries a fine of $100 to $250, according to MCL 324.82126/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-324-82126).
- Cornell Law: Trespass
- IPropertyManagement: Squatter’s Rights in Michigan
- Find Law: Compiled Laws, Chapter 750. Michigan Penal Code Section 750.552
- Find Law: Compiled Laws, Chapter 750. Michigan Penal Code Section 750.552a
- Find Law: Compiled Laws, Chapter 750. Michigan Penal Code Section 750.382
- Find Law: Compiled Laws, Chapter 750. Michigan Penal Code Section 750.552b
- Michigan Farm Bureau: CAGs Respond to March Discussion Topic: Recreational Trespass
- Michigan Legistlature: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (excerpt) Act 451 of 1994
- Michigan Legislature: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (excerpt) Act 451 of 1994
- Michigan Legistlature: Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.