Defending Criminal Trespass Charges
Trespassing can happen rather easily and without intent in St. Louis and elsewhere throughout Missouri. If you have been arrested for or are facing criminal trespass charges, call Combs Law Group immediately at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online for a free case review. Our St. Louis trespass lawyers have years of experience protecting clients’ rights and futures.
Criminal trespassing occurs when you enter or stay on someone’s property without their permission or consent. You can also be charged if you remain on – or return to – a property after your permission to stay has been withdrawn or expired – such as being asked to leave a bar or nightclub.
If you have been charged with criminal trespass, do not hesitate. You need to understand and explore your defense options with a knowledgeable Combs Law Group attorney right away. With the right defense strategy, you can have your charges reduced or dropped entirely. Below are the trespassing laws in Missouri followed by examples of defenses used by our experienced legal team. Please remember that every case is different.
Trespassing Laws in Missouri
Property owners must give would-be trespassers notice that they can’t come onto the property. In Missouri, an owner meets the notice requirements by installing a fence, telling the person that they can’t enter the property, posting a “No Trespassing” sign, or by marking property with purple paint, as described below. The Missouri trespassing statutes are:
- Purple Paint Statute, Missouri Revised Statutes § 569.145
- Any real property owner or lessee can mark the property with purple paint
- Purple paint marks are placed on trees or posts
- Vertical paint lines must be at least 8 inches long; the bottom of each mark must be between 3 feet and 5 feet off the ground
- Marks must readily visible to any person who approaches the property
- Purple paint marks can’t be more than 100 feet apart
- First Degree Trespass, RSMo § 569.140
- Knowingly enter property unlawfully or knowingly refuse to leave after being told to leave
- Enter onto property that is marked with purple paint marks as described by the law
- Enter property with posted “No Trespassing” signs
- Enter property that is fenced against intruders
- Second Degree Trespass, RSMo § 569.150
Missouri recognizes land marked with purple paint as a form of notice to trespassers that they can’t come on the property. Stipulations include:
Trespass in the first degree is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. This occurs when you:
Trespass in the second degree is an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $200. This is an offense of absolute liability which means that the property doesn’t have to be fenced or marked when you enter unlawfully.
Defending Criminal Trespass Charges
Even if there is a visible sign that bans entry onto the property, the property owner can still permit you to enter and stay on the property. The key to arguing consent in a trespass charge lies in your Combs Law Group defense attorney presenting clear evidence that the property owner allowed you to enter their property despite the existence of a “No Trespassing” sign, purple paint marks, a fence, or language to the contrary.
Another defense is the defense of necessity or justification, as defined in RSMo § 563.026. This defense is commonly used when you find yourself in a situation, through no fault of your own, where it is reasonable to do something that would typically be an offense in order to avoid more significant harm. If you are being chased by an armed individual, for example, and you ran into someone’s house for protection, you should not be charged with trespassing.
Another possible defense is that you acted in the interest of the public’s safety. This defense is mainly used in emergency situations. To cite public necessity as a defense, there must be a clear and immediate need to trespass, and you must prove that you acted in good faith to protect the public’s interests. For example, if you broke into a neighbor’s apartment to extinguish a fire, you could argue that you acted to stop the fire from spreading into the other units.
Connect With Combs Law Group Today to Learn About Defending Your Criminal Trespass Charges
No matter what type of trespassing charges you are facing, you need a capable St. Louis criminal defense attorney fighting for you. We must work together to begin strategizing your defense right away. Let Combs Law Group put our decades of experience and knowledge to work for you and your future.