In the state of Iowa, a person commits criminal trespass when they knowingly enter or remain on private property owned by someone else without that person's consent. Under Iowa trespassing laws, an offender faces various charges from a simple misdemeanor to a Class D felony depending upon the circumstances of the crime.
These offenses carry penalties that include fines, imprisonment or both. Iowa also has criminal trespass laws that address hunting on another person's property, entering a public utility and entering a food operation facility.
Defining Iowa Trespass Law
Iowa Code Section 716.7 describes criminal trespassing as:
- Entering a property without permission with the intent to alter, damage or remove something, harass someone, or commit a public offense.
- Entering or staying on a property after being notified or requested to leave it.
- Entering or staying on public utility or railway property without authority or consent.
- Viewing, photographing or filming a person who has a reasonable expectation of privacy while on someone else's property without consent.
- Hunting, fishing or trapping on a property without permission.
Criminal Penalties for Trespass Under State Law
The penalties for criminal trespass in Iowa are wide-ranging. A criminal trespass charge can be a misdemeanor (simple, serious or aggravated) or a class D felony. Some scenarios are not considered criminal trespassing, such as entering a property to retrieve personal items that have blown, fallen, strayed or been thrown onto another's property or entering a public road or highway.
Simple Criminal Trespass in Iowa
When a person trespasses on someone else's property, Iowa law considers it to be a simple misdemeanor, according to Section 805.8C Miscellaneous Scheduled Violations.
Most simple misdemeanors in Iowa carry penalties of up to 30 days in jail and fines of $105 to $855. However, a simple misdemeanor trespass conviction carries a $260 fine for the first offense, a $645 fine for the second offense, and a $1,285 fine for each trespassing charge after that.
Criminal Trespass and Deer Hunting
Trespassing while hunting any deer other than preserve whitetail or farm deer carry the same penalties: Offenders must pay a $260 fine for the first offense, a $645 fine for the second offense, and a $,1285 fine for each trespass charge after that.
A hunting offender is also subject to civil penalties for killing deer other than those mentioned above. They must pay the state $1,500 for deer without antlers and $2,000 to $20,000 for those with antlers. The hunter will also have to forfeit the animal.
Serious and Aggravated Misdemeanor Trespass
A person charged with serious misdemeanor trespass faces a year in jail and a fine of $430 to $2,560. A serious misdemeanor trespass occurs when a person:
- Injures someone or causes over $300 worth of damage while trespassing.
- Trespasses intending to commit a hate crime.
- Views, photographs or otherwise films someone with a reasonable expectation of privacy through a window without their consent.
Criminal trespass becomes an aggravated misdemeanor if the offender intends to commit a hate crime that causes injury or more than $300 worth of damage. The charge carries up to two years in jail and fines from $855 to $8,540.
Class D Felony Criminal Trespass
If someone enters a property owned by a public utility without permission or consent, they face a Class D felony. They also face a felony charge if they remain on the public utility property after their consent or authority expires.
This charge carries the most significant penalties for criminal trespass in Iowa. An offender can be sentenced to prison for a maximum of five years and have to pay fees from $1,025 to $10,245.
Additional Criminal Trespass Penalties
An offender will have to pay an additional 15 percent crime services surcharge on fines. If they get a deferred judgment – meaning they won't spend extra time in jail and won't have a conviction – and also meet specific conditions during their probation, they will pay a civil penalty. This is the same amount as a criminal fine, but without the 15 percent surcharge.
An offender who gets probation will pay a $300 probation supervision fee and should expect to pay restitution to the property owner for any damages they may have caused. The court may also order them to perform community service and pay a placement fee for a community service program.
Food Operation Trespassing in Iowa
Food operation trespassing is covered by an Iowa law enacted in 2021 to protect the biosecurity and food supply chain in Iowa. It's the result of several pranks made by animal rights activist Matthew Johnson. Johnson was charged with trespassing at an Iowa Select Farms sow operation in 2021. Iowa Senate File 2413 covers these operations:
- Locations where food animals are housed or kept, maintained, produced or processed in any manner.
- Locations where food animals are kept, such as apiaries, livestock markets, vehicles or trailers attached to another vehicle, a fair or exhibition, or veterinary medicine businesses.
- Locations where meat food, poultry product, milk or milk products, eggs or egg products, fish or honey is processed for human consumption, including food processing plants or slaughterhouses subject to state inspection.
- Food establishments or farmers markets selling or offering meat food, poultry product, milk or milk products, eggs or egg products, fish or honey.
A person who commits food operation trespassing charges faces an aggravated misdemeanor for their first offense. For their second offense, they face a Class D felony. An aggravated food operation trespassing conviction carries penalties of two years in jail and fines of up to $8,540. A Class D felony for this charge carries up to five years in prison with fines of up to $10,245.
- Wisconsin State Farmer: Industry Foe Charged Under Iowa's New Food Trespassing Law
- Iowa Legislature: SF2413_GovLetter.pdf
- Iowa Legislature: Section 805.8C Miscellaneous Scheduled Violations
- NOLO: Iowa Laws on Misdemeanor and Felony Theft
- Clark and Sears: Trespassing in Iowa
- Mccarthy and Hamrock: Criminal Trespass
- Iowa Legislature: Section 716.7 Trespass Defined
- NOLO: Iowa's Laws on Burglary and Criminal Trespass
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.