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What Is the Penalty for Trespassing in Washington State?

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We all have the right to feel safe and secure on our private property, whether it be our homes, businesses, or other pieces of land. Because of this right, Washington state frowns upon trespassing and can impose severe penalties if you find yourself on someone else’s property uninvited. Depending on the circumstances, trespassing penalties can include fines and jail time in Washington.

Washington’s Definition of Trespassing

Trespassing occurs if you are on someone else’s private property without his or her permission, as well as staying on someone’s property after he or she asks you to leave. You must knowingly or intentionally trespass to receive a criminal conviction – if you accidentally wander onto someone’s property, you will not typically face a criminal charge.

Under Washington state law, there are two basic types of trespassing charges: criminal trespassing in the first degree and criminal trespassing in the second degree.

  • To receive a charge for criminal trespass in the first degree, you must knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a building. This crime is a gross misdemeanor.
  • To receive a charge for criminal trespass in the second degree, you must knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on someone else’s property. However, the circumstances surrounding your trespass do not qualify for a first-degree charge. This crime is a misdemeanor.

Potential Penalties for Trespassing in Washington

You could receive significant penalties for trespassing in Washington state. All trespassing charges are either misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, depending on the degree of the crime.

  • For a misdemeanor charge for trespass in the second degree, you could receive up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
  • For a gross misdemeanor charge for trespass in the first degree, you could face up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $5,000.

For the state to convict you of these charges, the prosecution will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an act of criminal trespass. There are several acceptable defenses to these charges, including the following.

  • The building was open to the public.
  • You reasonably believed you had a right to be on the premises.
  • The owners abandoned the building.
  • You were attempting to serve legal process to the person accusing you of trespassing. You can only use this defense if you entered a building that was open to the public and your entry into the building was necessary and reasonable.

Hiring an attorney can help you determine if any of the above defenses can apply to your case. Your attorney will examine key pieces of evidence such as surveillance footage and property records. In addition, he or she will speak to witnesses, request expert testimony, and use his or her knowledge of Washington criminal law to help build a compelling case in your favor.

What to Do If You Receive a Trespassing Charge

If police officers are arresting you for trespassing in Washington state, remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement. Listen carefully to your Miranda rights and pay attention to what is happening at the scene – make note of why you were at the property and whether or not the owner gave you reason to believe that you belonged there.

Do not speak to any investigators until after you contact a defense attorney. The prosecution could use what you say against you in a future hearing, leading to reduced chances for the best possible outcome. Speaking to your lawyer is crucial to ensuring that your case stays as strong as possible.

Trespassing charges can be damaging to your freedom and your wallet – but having a defense attorney on your side can help you obtain the best possible outcome. While every case is different and you may not see the same results as others, your attorney could argue for a reduced sentence or even convince the court to drop the charges altogether. As soon as possible after your arrest, contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney to discuss your trespassing charges.

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