The Penalties for Trespassing on Private Property in Virginia

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Virginia trespassing laws on private property prohibit someone from entering another person’s land without obtaining permission or remaining there after they’ve been told to leave. The trespassing laws in Virginia carry varied penalties, depending on the nature of the offense, as well as the intent of the trespasser. Trespassing in Virginia is classified as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the offense. Both may be punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both, and, in certain cases, revocation of sporting licenses.

Trespassing After Having Been Forbidden

In Virginia, criminal trespass occurs when a person without legal authority enters or remains on the property of someone else without permission, especially after receiving notice that such entry or remaining in place is forbidden. Virginia Code Section 18.2-119 notes that this notice may be given verbally or in writing by the owner, lessee, custodian or the agent of any of these persons. Whether a property is posted with no trespassing signs, or the trespasser does not leave when told to do so, the offense is the same.

Offenders cannot be prosecuted simply because they were on someone else’s property. An offender can only be convicted with proof that he entered private property after he was expressly given notice that his entry was forbidden, whether by verbal instruction or with no trespassing warning signs posted on the property that are clearly visible.

Criminal trespass under this code section is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500. The offense escalates to a Class 6 felony, punished by not less than one year and up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $2,500, if the trespasser intentionally targeted the property based on race, religion, color or ethnicity.

Read More: Punishments for Trespassing

Hunting and Fishing Trespassing Laws

Virginia’s hunting and fishing trespassing laws pertaining to private property include these misdemeanors:

Class 1 misdemeanor. Entering someone’s land, waters, ponds, boats or blinds without verbal permission or in violation of prohibitory signs to hunt, fish or trap violates Virginia Code Section 18.2-134. Penalties include serving up to 12 months in jail and/or paying a fine up to $2,500.

Class 3 misdemeanor. Intentionally entering someone’s land, waters, ponds, boats or blinds to hunt, fish or trap without permission of the property owner violates Virginia Code Section 18.2-132, the penalty for which is paying a fine up to $500.

Virginia Code Section 18.2-132.1 prohibits people from intentionally releasing hunting dogs on someone’s posted land to hunt. This offense is also a Class 3 misdemeanor, but second and subsequent violations of this law within three years of conviction represent an additional Class 1 misdemeanor, which results in a revocation of the offender’s hunting or trapping license for a period of one year.

Visual Trespassing Laws

If a person enters another person’s property and peeps or attempts to peep into the owner’s dwelling, the offender commits a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia Code Section 18.2-130.A. Violation of this law carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Encouraging or Soliciting Trespass

Even if a trespass does not actually occur, a person can be charged with trespassing if she encourages, urges, solicits or instigates trespass by another person, according to Virginia Code Section 18.2-120. If convicted, the offender commits a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by confinement in jail up to 12 months and/or payment of a fine up to $2,500.

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About the Author

Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting, tax and law. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.

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