What is Criminal Trespassing?
Twelve people were recently arrested at a Chicago hotel when a gun was discharged in a guest room. According to reports, a 24-year-old woman rented a room at the Chicago hotel to host a party. Police responded when they were notified about gunfire in the hotel. When they arrived on the scene they found and seized three handguns. The host and the other eleven partygoers were arrested. The party guests may face a variety of criminal charges, including those for criminal trespassing.
Defining Criminal Trespassing
In Illinois, you can face criminal charges if you enter another person’s vehicle or property without permission. You can also face criminal charges for trespassing if you refuse to leave a person’s property once you have been asked to leave. Illinois’ criminal trespassing laws can be found in 720 ILCS 5/21-2 (criminal trespass of vehicles) and 720 ILCS 5/21-3 (criminal trespass of real property). Both laws prohibit “knowingly and without authority” entering another person’s property.
Criminal Trespass of Vehicles
In Illinois, it is a crime to knowingly enter or operate another person’s motor vehicle without authority. This prohibition also applies to motor vehicles, aircrafts, watercrafts, and snowmobiles. Criminal trespass of a vehicle is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and $2,500 in criminal fines.
Criminal Trespass of Real Property
It is also a crime to knowingly enter another person’s real property (land) without authority. Specifically, criminal trespassing is defined in 720 ILCS 5/21-3 as any of the following acts:
- Entering or remaining in or on a building without authority;
- Specifically ignoring a property owner’s notice that entry onto property is forbidden;
- Entering another person’s property and, after being asked to leave, remaining on the land; or
- Fraudulently gaining access to another person’s property.
The Chicago hotel partiers are facing criminal charges for trespassing because they did not have permission to be on the hotel grounds. Only the woman who rented the room had the explicit permission of the hotel to be on the property. The hotel likely had strict language in their rental agreement with the woman that explained the visitation policy. Having 11 people visiting a hotel room in the middle of the night likely violated that agreement.
The important takeaway here is that in some situations you can face criminal charges for trespassing on property that you believe is open to the public. It is important to know if you have permission to be on the property. If you receive notice that you are not permitted on the premises, but stay anyway, you can be charged with criminal trespass.
Penalties for Criminal Trespassing
When there are no aggravating factors present, criminal trespass is a Class B Misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you could face up to six months in jail and be responsible for paying $1,500 in fines. When aggravating factors are present, the crime of criminal trespass can be elevated to a Class A Misdemeanor. Aggravating factors include entering:
- Property that is capable of growing, or actually growing, crops;
- Property that contains livestock;
- An orchard; or
- Buildings used to house livestock (e.g., barns).
If you commit additional crimes once you have knowingly and unlawfully entered another person’s property you may face charges for those crimes, as well.
Defending Criminal Trespass Charges
When you are accused of trespassing you have the right to assert any defense that can explain or justify your behavior. These defenses, when successfully argued, will make it very difficult for the prosecution to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This will increase your chances of securing a plea agreement or getting the charges dropped altogether. Defenses to criminal trespassing include:
- You did not intend to enter the property;
- You thought you had permission to enter the property;
- You were not aware that you had been asked to leave;
- You were acting in self-defense; and
- You have been mistakenly identified or falsely accused.
Call the Kostopoulos Law Group for Help
Are you facing criminal charges for criminal trespass in Chicago? Call Gus Kostopoulos and the Kostopoulos Law Group for help. Even though trespassing is “only” a misdemeanor, a conviction can still have life-changing consequences. When you have a criminal record you will find that it is incredibly tough to live a normal life. Employers may choose not to give you a job, landlords may not want you in the neighborhood, and banks may be hesitant to give you a loan. You have the power to fight the charges against you, and our experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys can help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
Kostopoulos Law Group
125 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 300A
Chicago, IL 60606
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