How to Beat a Trespassing Charge in Louisiana

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If you were arrested for trespassing, you need to hire a criminal lawyer. Louisiana has strict trespass laws, and you won’t be able to have the charges dropped or reduced without the help of an experienced attorney.

A lawyer at The Johnson Firm will build a defense and work hard to prevent you from having to go to jail or pay steep fines. Call (337) 433-1414 now.

How to Beat a Trespassing Charge

The best way to beat a charge is to be vigilant and relentless. Prosecution counts on you backing down, but attorneys at The Johnson Firm never back down, and we don’t give up on our clients. 

Here are just a few of the defenses we use to have clients’ charges dropped or reduced.

You Had Consent

We’ve seen instances where a landowner did give permission for our client to be on the property, only to forget or deny that they said so in the first place.

Consent can be given through words, actions, or written permission, but it can also be obtained through the property owner’s silence or inaction. For example, a court may side with a trespasser if the landowner saw the person walk through their yard but didn’t say or do anything to stop them (and didn’t have a clearly visible ‘No Trespassing’ sign).

However, you cannot get valid consent through coercion. Also, young children, legally incompetent people, and intoxicated individuals cannot give valid consent.

You Were Reclaiming Your Own Property

In certain circumstances, you’re allowed to enter someone else’s property if you’re in the process of recovering something that belongs to you. However, you can only do so if the property was misplaced by the property owner (they took it from you) or by a random act of nature (a strong wind or storm).

Louisiana law states that the following people may enter or remain on someone else’s immoveable property unless specifically forbidden to do so:

  • The owner of domestic livestock (or their employees or agents) in order to retrieve livestock that have escaped from a fenced-in area
  • The owner or occupant of a watercraft or vessel traveling in salt water in order to retrieve their property or for obtaining assistance in an emergency situation.

You Were Acting in Defense of Others

This may be a viable defense if you trespassed to protect the public during an emergency. For example, you’re driving down a secluded road far from town and see unattended flames and smoke spreading in someone’s yard. You call 911, but in the meantime, run into the yard and try to staunch the fire. 

For this defense to work, there must be an immediate necessity for your actions (i.e. a quickly-spreading fire) and you must have trespassed in good faith (you intended to protect the public from the fire). 

This defense is unlikely to work if your actions were unreasonable in the circumstances. For example, if the landowner was present and kept the fire contained, or if it was just a small bonfire with no threat of spreading, public necessity is not a defense. 

You Were Acting in Defense of Yourself

Your Lake Charles criminal defense attorney may decide this is a viable defense if you trespassed to protect yourself, someone else, or an animal from death or serious bodily injury. 

Private necessity is different from public necessity in that you could be held civilly liable for any property damage or bodily injury that results.

Louisiana Laws & Definitions Regarding Trespassing

In Louisiana, anyone who enters or remains on someone else’s property without their consent is guilty of criminal trespass. This also includes operating unmanned aircraft (i.e. a drone) over someone’s property with the intent to conduct surveillance of the property or anyone on it.

The law provides little room for interpretation, but many people are still wrongfully or excessively accused of a crime they may or may not have committed.

Below, we provide definitions and specific statutes regarding Louisiana trespass law. Louisiana statutes are notoriously confusing, so please contact The Johnson Firm with any questions regarding these laws. 

Definitions

  • Felony – Any crime for which an offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment with hard labor.
  • Misdemeanor – Any crime other than a felony.
  • Property – Refers to both public and private property (structures and land, i.e. public field or private residence), movable and immovable (i.e. vehicles), and corporeal and incorporeal property.

Criminal Trespass Statute

§63

A.(1) No person shall enter any structure, watercraft, or movable owned by another without express, legal, or implied authorization.

B.(1) No person shall enter upon immovable property owned by another without express, legal, or implied authorization.

C.(1) No person shall remain in or upon property, movable or immovable, owned by another without express, legal, or implied authorization.

It’s just as important to define who has the right to be on someone else’s property. Louisiana law states that the following people may enter or remain upon the structure, watercraft, movable or immovable property, of another:

  • A duly commissioned law enforcement officer in the performance of their duties.
  • Any firefighter, whether or not a member of a volunteer or other fire department, and any employee or agent of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry engaged in locating and suppressing a fire.
  • Emergency medical personnel engaged in the rendering of medical assistance to an individual.
  • Any federal, state, or local government employee, public utility employee, or agent engaged in suppressing or dealing with an emergency that presents an imminent danger to human safety, health, or the environment.
  • Any federal, state, or local government employee, public utility employee, or agent in the performance of their duties when otherwise authorized by law to enter or remain on immovable or movable property.
  • Any person authorized by a court of law to enter or remain on immovable property.
  • Any person exercising the mere right of passage to an enclosed estate, as otherwise provided by law.

Penalties for Criminal Trespass in Louisiana

Like most other crimes in Louisiana, penalties for trespassing increase with the number of offenses. Penalties for a first offense include:

  • Fine between $100 and $500, or
  • Imprisonment for no more than 30 days, or
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for a second offense include:

  • Fine between $300 and $750, or
  • Imprisonment for no more than 90 days, or
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

Penalties for a third or subsequent offense include:

  • Fine between $500 and $1,000, or
  • Imprisonment for 60 days to six months, or
  • Both fine and imprisonment and forfeiture of any property taken during the trespass violation.

*Note: A person may be convicted of a second or subsequent trespassing offense regardless of whether the prior conviction involved the same structure, watercraft, movable or immovable property, and regardless of the difference in time between the offenses.

*Note regarding wildlife: In addition to the above penalties, a person convicted of criminal trespass, regardless of the number of previous offenses who has killed or otherwise misappropriated any wildlife during the trespassing violation must pay the value of the misappropriated wildlife into the Conservation Fund of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the value of which will be determined by guidelines provided in R.S. 56:40.2.

How to Beat a Trespassing Charge: Call The Johnson Firm

The criminal defense attorneys at The Johnson Firm have decades of experience defending clients charged with criminal trespassing. We have the knowledge and legal alacrity to have your charges dropped or reduced on grounds of consent, reclaiming your property, or public or private necessity.

If you or a loved one were charged with criminal trespass in Lake Charles or surrounding areas, call our office today at (337) 433-1414.

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