Criminal trespassing occurs when a person intentionally enters another’s property without permission. In Arkansas, a person found guilty of criminal trespassing can be sentenced to varying fines and jail sentences depending upon the extent of the offense. However, the statute also sets forth several defenses that, if proven, would make a person innocent.
Under Arkansas statute 5-39-203, criminal trespassing occurs when a person unlawfully enters either someone’s property or vehicle. Such an offense is a Class C misdemeanor. However, the crime is considered a Class B misdemeanor, more severe, if the vehicle is used as a residence, such as a motor home or RV, or the property is or could be lived in. (Reference 3)
Additionally, according to 5-39-305, a person can also commit criminal trespassing in vacant or undeveloped land located just outside a town or city boundary line. If the land is designed for crops or is surrounded by fencing, a person can only enter with the owner’s written consent. Any violation is a Class C misdemeanor, unless the land is clearly marked with ‘Keep Out’ or ‘No Trespassing’ signs. In that case, the trespass is a Class B misdemeanor. (Reference 4)
If a person is found guilty of criminal trespassing as a Class C misdemeanor, he may face up to 30 days in jail. (Reference 1) A court may also order a fine in addition to the jail sentence. As of July 1, 2009, the maximum fine for a Class C misdemeanor was raised from $100 to $500. (References 1, 2)
When the trespass was a Class B misdemeanor, a guilty person faces up to 90 days in jail. (Reference 1) The maximum fine also increased on July 1, 2009, going from $500 to $1000. (References 1, 2)
Arkansas’ code does include several defenses to criminal trespassing. If a person can prove one of the defenses permitted under 5-39-305(c), he will be found not guilty. Applicable defenses include: (1) the accuses was the owner’s invited guest, with permission to be on the property, (2) the property was public land or private land open for public use, (3) the accused was on the property to conduct legitimate business or to protect public health or public safety and (4) the accused entered the land accidentally and was not aware that he was trespassing. (Reference 4)