People have been wanderers since we've had two legs to stand on, so it's not hard to believe that sometimes, trespassing is just an accident. Though state statutes and property rights laws vary a bit across the country, law officers are often able to issue trespass warnings under certain circumstances. If you're on the wrong end of one of these warnings but feel that you're in the right, knowing your trespassing law basics is crucial to the appeal process – otherwise, your rights might just get trespassed upon.
About Trespassing Laws
Revoking a trespass warning boils down to a fairly painless appeal process, but first, you've got to figure out if you're truly in the legal right or not.
First off, to have committed criminal trespass, you must have intentionally entered the property in question knowing that you did not have the necessary permission to be there, or stayed there after learning that you were not allowed. Genuinely accidental wandering is not criminal trespass. However, you don't have to have criminal intent to be guilty of criminal trespass.
Another law that may be on your side: It's very typical for state laws to require that properties display clearly posted trespassing warnings before anyone can be convicted of criminal trespass, so make sure you read up on the relevant state statutes.
Trespass warnings are very common at universities, issued by campus police officers who are empowered to enforce state laws and local ordinances alongside university rules. Even in public spaces, such as public universities, you can be guilty of trespassing if you knowingly enter the space or stick around after closing hours, or after you've been ordered to leave by the authorities.
Read More: Federal Criminal Trespassing Laws
Trespass Warning Appeal Process
Like state and local laws, the trespass warning appeal process may vary a bit depending upon who issued the warning, but most cases follow a fairly similar track.
Typically, you'll need to issue a written appeal to the issuing authority, such as to the local police department, director of the public facilities in question or the chief of campus police. It's not uncommon for a time limit to be enforced, such as 10 days from the date of your warning, during which you're able to appeal. Some departments accept appeals via email or phone, but going in-person is always a safe bet (of course, you'll need to call or email if the facilities are on the same property you allegedly trespassed upon). Many institutions even have pre-made appeal forms ready to fill out.
In your appeal, include an explanation of why you believe the warning should be revoked, why you felt the need to be on the property or any other relevant info, in addition to your contact information and signature. This is also the place to include any supporting documentation, such as a photo that clearly shows a lack of "no trespassing" signs. In some cases, you'll be required to attend a hearing regarding your trespass warning.
Upon submission, your appeal will be impartially reviewed and you'll be notified if the warning has been lifted, or if it will remain in effect.
More to Know
If your trespass appeal is denied, you'll often be given the chance to appeal to a higher authority (such as a regional vice chancellor, in the case of a university violation, for example) for a final decision. This, too, may require a hearing.
When you've got a trespass warning in effect, it remains in effect until revoked. While it's active, you may be subject to arrest without further warning upon entering the property again.
If you've been issued a trespass warning but you're in the right, having it lifted usually requires a little paperwork in the form of an appeal.
- Nolo: Criminal Trespassing Law
- University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee: Trespass Warning and Appeal Procedure
- Hussein and Webber, PL: Trespass in Structure or Conveyance – Florida
- Lee County Southwest Florida: Trespass Appeals Policy and Procedure
- University of North Texas at Dallas: Police Department: Criminal Trespass Warning Appeal
- UNTD Police: Criminal Trespass Warning Appeal Form
- If you are denied permission by the current property owner, then wait a few years and try with a new owner. Trespass warnings are meant to keep a person off land, so a new owner can revoke the old owner's trespass warning.
- Do not enter property that you have been trespassed from. Trespass warnings apply to public property as well.
As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune, Zacks.com, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.