Trespassing, like many Colorado crimes, is divided into different degrees of seriousness. The lower the “degree” number, the more serious the offense is.
First Degree Criminal Trespass
In Colorado, a person commits First Degree Criminal Trespass if they unlawfully enter the dwelling of another person, or if they enter any motor vehicle with the intent to commit a crime. This is a class 5 felony carrying a possible prison term of 1 to 3 years in the Department of Corrections.
If the property involved was a building, the district attorney must be able to prove that the building was a dwelling (someone’s home). If this cannot be proven, the trespass can, at worst, be second degree. The garage counts as part of the dwelling if it is attached to the area where people reside. The dwelling must be “of another,” which means that a defendant cannot be convicted of trespassing in a home where they live.
For a vehicle break-in to be trespass in the first degree, the defendant must break in while having the intent to commit a crime once they had gained access to the vehicle. This intent to commit a crime is not required when the trespass involves a dwelling. In the case of a dwelling, simply entering unlawfully amounts to guilt. Note, however, that if the defendant breaks into a dwelling, while having the intent to commit a crime inside, this is a different crime – Burglary.
Breaking into a tractor-trailer to steal any contents inside would be considered to be first degree trespass.
Second Degree Criminal Trespass
A person commits Second Degree Trespass if they illegally enter the fenced area of another person’s property, or if they unlawfully enter a hotel, motel, condo, or apartment building. A person can also be found guilty for going into another person’s vehicle without permission (even if there is no intent to commit a crime).
Second Degree Criminal Trespass is a class 3 misdemeanor, however, it increases in seriousness to a class 2 misdemeanor if the property trespassed upon is classified as agricultural land. If it involved agricultural land, and the defendant entered the premises intending to commit any crime classified as a felony, then it becomes a class 4 felony, carrying a possible 6-year prison sentence.
Third Degree Criminal Trespass
Third Degree Criminal Trespass is essentially the same as second degree, with the exception that there doesn’t have to be a fence involved. Therefore, a conviction can result from merely entering the land of another unlawfully. Third Degree Trespass is only a petty offense, unless it involves agricultural land, in which case it becomes elevated to a class 3 misdemeanor. If it involves agricultural land, and the defendant intended to commit a felony once they entered, then it becomes a class 2 misdemeanor.
Please visit our page about sentencing to determine the possible jail or prison sentence that comes with a conviction. As with any criminal offense, having a well-qualified defense attorney will increase the chances of getting better results, and smaller penalties. Please call our office for a consultation if you have been charged with trespassing in Colorado.