Chicago Criminal Trespass to Land Lawyers

What is Criminal Trespass to Land in Chicago? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you entered someone’s property without their permission, even if you didn’t mean any harm? In Chicago, this could be considered criminal trespass to land.Criminal trespass to land, also known as criminal trespass to real property, occurs when a person knowingly enters or remains on someone else’s land without permission from the owner or occupant24. This applies to all types of property, including homes,…

What is Criminal Trespass to Land in Chicago?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you entered someone’s property without their permission, even if you didn’t mean any harm? In Chicago, this could be considered criminal trespass to land.Criminal trespass to land, also known as criminal trespass to real property, occurs when a person knowingly enters or remains on someone else’s land without permission from the owner or occupant24. This applies to all types of property, including homes, businesses, empty buildings, fenced areas, and even open fields5.Some common examples of criminal trespass include:

  • Ignoring “No Trespassing” signs and entering a property anyway
  • Entering a building without the owner’s consent
  • Refusing to leave private property after being asked to do so by the owner
  • Using fake documents or lying to gain access to a property1

It’s important to understand that to be convicted of criminal trespass, the prosecution must prove you knew you didn’t have permission to be on the property but chose to enter or remain there anyway5. This means if you accidentally wandered onto someone’s land or weren’t aware you weren’t allowed, you may have a defense against trespassing charges.

Penalties for Criminal Trespass to Land

In Illinois, criminal trespass to land is typically charged as a Class B misdemeanor24. If convicted, you could face:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,50024

However, the charges and penalties can be elevated based on certain factors. For example:

  • Trespassing on a farm with a motor vehicle like a motorcycle is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine24
  • Trespassing on state-supported property is a Class A misdemeanor1
  • Possessing weapons or ammunition while trespassing on public property without written permission is a Class A misdemeanor1
  • Trespassing at restricted airport areas while possessing a weapon is a Class 4 felony1
  • Damaging government-supported property while trespassing can range from a Class 4 felony ($500 or less in damage) up to a Class 1 felony (over $100,000 in damage)1

In addition to criminal penalties, a trespassing conviction goes on your permanent record which can impact your ability to get a job, housing, and more. You may also face civil liability if you caused any property damage while trespassing5.

Defenses Against Trespassing Charges

If you’ve been charged with criminal trespass to land, you’re probably feeling stressed and overwhelmed. But don’t panic – there are defenses available that an experienced trespassing lawyer can use to fight the charges. Some common defenses include:

Lack of Notice

To be guilty of criminal trespass, you must have been on notice that you weren’t allowed on the property4. This notice can be:

  • Verbal, like the owner telling you that you can’t come onto their land
  • Written, such as a letter from the owner denying you entry
  • Posted signs stating that trespassing is prohibited4

If the prosecution can’t prove you were properly notified that entry was forbidden, they may not be able to convict you of trespassing. An example would be if you entered an unfenced, unmarked field with no signage – it could be argued you had no way of knowing you weren’t permitted.

Consent from the Owner

Another strong defense is if you can show you had consent from the property owner to be on the land5. Consent can be:

  • Express – The owner directly tells you verbally or in writing that you’re allowed on the property.
  • Implied – Based on circumstances or your previous interactions with the owner, it’s reasonable to believe you had permission. For instance, if your neighbor always let you take a shortcut through their yard in the past, you may have implied consent.

Even if you initially had consent to enter, it’s important to leave promptly if the owner asks you to. Otherwise, you could still face trespassing charges for remaining on the property after permission was revoked5.

Necessity or Emergency

In some emergency situations, you may have a necessity defense for entering property without permission4. For example:

  • There was imminent danger or risk of harm to yourself or others
  • You entered the property to prevent damage or destruction
  • You were rescuing a person or animal from a dangerous situation like a fire4

The key is that the circumstances must have been urgent enough to justify trespassing. You can’t use this defense if you had other reasonable, legal alternatives available.

Improving Abandoned Property

An interesting exception to trespassing laws in Chicago involves abandoned buildings. If you enter a building that’s been abandoned for at least a year and try to clean up or beautify the property, you may not be guilty of criminal trespass4.For this defense to apply, the property taxes must be unpaid and you must be improving the land, like mowing an overgrown lawn or clearing debris. You can’t use this justification to illegally squat or occupy the building.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Criminal Trespass

Trespassing may not sound like a serious crime, but a conviction can lead to jail time, hefty fines, and a permanent criminal record. If you’re facing trespassing charges, it’s crucial to take action to protect your rights and future. Here are some key steps:

1. Contact a Criminal Trespass Lawyer

As soon as possible after being charged or arrested, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who handles trespassing cases. Trespassing laws can be complex, and you need a skilled lawyer to assess the strength of the evidence against you and build an aggressive defense strategy.Look for an attorney with a track record of success in trespassing cases and experience negotiating with local prosecutors. Be upfront about the facts of your case in your initial consultation so they can give you an honest evaluation of your options.

2. Avoid Talking to Police or Prosecutors

If the police want to question you about the trespassing incident, politely decline to answer and say you want to speak with a lawyer first. Even if you believe you did nothing wrong, it’s easy to accidentally say something that can be misconstrued and used against you.Similarly, don’t discuss your case with friends, family, or on social media. Prosecutors may try to use your statements as evidence to convict you. Let your attorney handle all communications about your charges.

3. Gather Evidence to Support Your Defense

Your lawyer will conduct their own investigation to collect evidence that helps prove your innocence. However, if you have any information that supports your defense, provide it to your attorney. This might include:

  • Photos or videos showing the lack of “No Trespassing” signs on the property
  • Copies of written permission from the property owner allowing you entry
  • Witness statements corroborating that you had consent or that there was an emergency
  • Records showing the property was abandoned and you were trying to improve it

Your lawyer can use this evidence to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the charges or negotiate a favorable plea deal. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present this evidence to fight for an acquittal.

4. Consider Plea Bargaining

In some cases, it may be in your best interests to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a lighter sentence, especially if the evidence against you is strong. Your attorney can evaluate any plea offers from the prosecutor and advise whether it’s a good deal.A skilled lawyer may be able to negotiate for an amendment to the charges, like pleading guilty to a lesser offense of disorderly conduct instead of trespassing. They can also argue for alternative sentences like court supervision (which avoids a conviction on your record) or community service instead of jail.However, you should never accept a plea agreement without first consulting with your attorney. They can ensure the deal is fair and explain all the potential consequences before you make a decision.

Real Life Example

To illustrate how an attorney can make a difference in a trespassing case, let’s look at a real scenario. Imagine you‘re a college student who’s out late partying with friends. On the walk home, you realize you really need to use the restroom. You spot a 24/7 laundromat that appears open, so you go inside to relief yourself.Unbeknownst to you, the laundromat is actually closed and the owner is in the back room. He hears you enter and calls the police. You‘re still in the restroom when the cops arrive and arrest you for criminal trespassing.Panicked, you call an attorney for help. Your lawyer reviews the case and determines:

  • There were no signs on the laundromat door indicating it was closed or that customers weren’t allowed inside.
  • The business had its lights on and appeared open from the outside, so you had reason to believe you could enter.
  • You didn’t intend to steal anything or cause damage, and you were only inside briefly to use the restroom out of necessity.
  • You have no prior criminal record.

Based on these circumstances, your attorney approaches the prosecutor and argues for the trespassing charge to be dismissed. He emphasizes your lack of criminal intent, the absence of clear notice that entry was prohibited, and the emergent nature of the situation.

After some negotiation, the prosecutor agrees to drop the trespassing charge if you pay a small fine and perform 20 hours of community service. You accept the deal, relieved to avoid the stress and expense of a trial and a permanent conviction on your record.Without a lawyer‘s advocacy, you could have faced up to 6 months in jail and a lasting criminal history over an honest mistake. That‘s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable attorney if you’re charged with trespassing.

Schedule Your Consultation Now