trespass | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Trespass is the unauthorized entry onto another person’s property, and it is a criminal offense that can result in both civil and criminal liability.

In the criminal law context, trespass is defined as the act of intentionally entering or remaining on another person’s property without their consent. This can include entering onto land, buildings, or other structures that belong to someone else and can also include crossing property lines or boundaries that are clearly marked.

The specific elements of trespass can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but in general, it requires that the defendant intentionally entered the property without the owner’s consent. It is not necessary for the defendant to have caused any damage to the property or to have intended to commit any other crime while on the property.

Trespass can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense. For example, if the defendant entered onto the property that was clearly marked as off-limits, or if they refused to leave when asked to do so by the property owner or law enforcement, they may be charged with a more serious offense.

In addition to criminal liability, trespass can also result in civil liability. Property owners may be able to sue trespassers for damages or for the cost of any repairs that are necessary to restore the property to its previous condition. Trespassers may also be liable for any injuries or harm that they cause while on the property.


Dressler, J. (2013). Understanding Criminal Law (6th ed.). Matthew Bender & Company.

National Crime Prevention Council. (2021). Trespassing.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 03/14/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.