How Does a Prosecutor Prove You Criminally Trespassed?

Posted by Josh Valentine | Feb 26, 2018

Owning property comes with many benefits. One of those benefits is to enjoy the exclusive use of that property without infringement from the outside world. If you enter or remain on another person's property without permission, you face both criminal and civil charges for trespassing. What will the prosecution have to do in order to prove that you are guilty of criminal trespass?

In most cases, the prosecution will try to establish that you knew, or should have known, that property was off-limits and that you entered anyway. Proving that you knew property was off-limits will allow them to counter any arguments of ignorance that you may try to use in your defense. Lack of knowledge can be an affirmative defense to trespassing, so the prosecution will try to prove that you knew (or should have known) what you were doing. How can the prosecution prove that you knowingly entered another's property? Establishing that the property was secured or that warning signs were posted will be their likely course of action.

Barriers Secured the Property

It can be simple to walk onto another person's property by mistake if there is nothing to indicate where one piece of property ends and another begins. In order to prove a trespassing case against you, the prosecution will point out the presence of any barriers that should have notified you that property was off-limits. Barriers that may be used to secure and/or enclose property may include:

  • Fences
  • Walls
  • Wire
  • Shrubbery
  • Gates.

These barriers exist to protect the property owner's sole right to enjoy the use of his or her property. The prosecution will use the fact that you ignored and/or bypassed these measures as proof of criminal trespass. Bypassing a barrier could include hopping a fence, opening a gate, or climbing a wall.

Warning Signs Posted Around Perimeter

Some property owners may take steps to explicitly warn others that entering the property is off limits by posting “no trespassing” signs along the property's perimeter. If you enter property that has “no trespassing” signs posted "in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders,” you can face charges for second degree criminal trespass. The prosecutor handling your case will have to prove that:

  1. The property owner posted signs that explicitly told others not to enter their private property; and
  2. These signs were posted in a way that would be reasonably likely to warn others.

Whether or not the signs were posted in a manner that would be likely to warn you to stay off of the property will be a question of fact. The prosecution will attempt to prove:

  1. Multiple signs were posted;
  2. Any signs that were posted were spread out along the perimeter; and
  3. Signs were posted at places where trespassers were most likely to enter.

Fighting Criminal Trespass Charges in North Carolina

Have you been arrested for criminal trespassing in North Carolina? If so, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. The prosecution will immediately get to work on building a solid case against you. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner we can get to work on your defense. At Caulder & Valentine, our North Carolina trespassing attorneys will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime and fight to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call us today to request a consultation and learn more.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar