Whether you decided to take a shortcut while walking home and did not know you were crossing through private property, or you had an inkling you should not enter an abandoned building but do so anyway for fun, you and other Arizona residents should realize that entering residential or commercial property without permission – even if you were just passing through – can come with serious criminal penalties.
It is especially important for young people to understand that trespassing has consequences, since juveniles may unwittingly commit a crime by “urban exploring,” hanging out at a railyard after hours or doing other activities that may seem harmless, but break the law.
Arizona law is specific when it comes to criminal trespassing, as FindLaw points out. Three degrees define the severity of the alleged crime. The following points can help you understand:
- Third-degree misdemeanor trespassing involves unlawfully entering or remaining on property after the property owner asks you to leave, or entering on railroad right-of-way property.
- Second-degree misdemeanor trespassing occurs if you go onto a residential yard without permission or look into the residential structure and violate the residents’ privacy.
- First-degree felony trespassing is defined as entering a residence without permission, unlawfully entering a public services facility or defacing a religious symbol on private property.
As you can see, common sense says that some forms of trespassing are obviously illegal, such as looking through the windows of someone’s home or damaging their property. However, you may not see the harm in exploring an abandoned structure, without realizing someone may still own the property or authorities have deemed the place unsafe and placed restrictions on entering. Or, you may have cut across a wooded area on your way home without knowing it was part of someone’s backyard. These cases may give you a stronger defense that you unknowingly trespassed or did not intend to cause harm.