Iowa Criminal Trespass Laws

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A person commits the crime of criminal trespass if he knowingly enters or remains on another individual's property without the owner's consent. Criminal trespass is actually what most people think of as "breaking and entering." A defendant who criminally trespasses in Iowa is subject to prosecution by the state and, if convicted, will face criminal penalties, including fines and/or imprisonment. Under Iowa law, a defendant may escape conviction for criminal trespass if he can prove the existence of one of several applicable exceptions or defenses.

Iowa Criminal Trespass Definition

Under Iowa law, criminal trespass encompasses several acts, most notably: (1) entering or remaining on property without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to vacate the property by the owner; and (2) entering on property without the owner's express or implied permission and wrongfully using, removing, damaging or altering anything on that property. Iowa trespass law defines "property" as any land, dwelling, building, vehicle or other temporary or permanent structure, whether privately or publicly owned.

Hunting, Fishing, Trapping

It is a criminal trespass in Iowa to enter on another's land without consent with the intent to hunt on that land.
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Under Iowa law, criminal trespass includes entering or remaining on another's land without the owner's express permission with the intent to hunt, fish or trap on or in the property. However, Iowa law provides an express exception to this prohibition for situations involving the unarmed pursuit of game or fur-bearing animals that are lawfully injured or killed elsewhere and that subsequently come to rest on or escape to the property of another.

Railway Property

Iowa law exempts unauthorized passage over a railroad right-of-way under certain conditions.
••• railroad crossing image by William Burnett from Fotolia.com

Under Iowa law, criminal trespass includes entering or remaining on railway property without lawful authority or consent of the railroad corporation controlling that property. It is not a trespass, though, for a person to pass over a railroad right-of-way (other than a track, bridge, railroad roadbed or railroad yard) if: (1) that person is unarmed; (2) that person has not been notified or requested to abstain from entering on or to vacate the right-of-way; and (3) the passage over the right-of-way does not interfere with the railroad's operation.

Defenses

Under Iowa law, a person has a "privilege" to enter another person's land without permission under certain circumstances. A defendant accused of criminal trespass can assert privilege as a defense to the crime. In particular, a person is privileged to enter on the land of another (without committing trespass) for the sole purpose of retrieving personal property that has accidentally landed on that land if he: (1) takes the most direct and accessible route to retrieve his property; (2) exits the land as quickly as possible thereafter; and (3) does not unduly interfere with the lawful use of the property.

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About the Author

Elissa Bassini has been writing since 2001. She has been a law firm associate, judicial intern and a teaching assistant/research consultant at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a 2005 Writers Capstone Honor. Her writing appears in university curricula, research and marketing materials. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, summa cum laude, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania.

Photo Credits

  • no trespassing sign image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com