WHAT IS CRIMINAL TRESPASS (ORC 2911.21(A)(1))?

Under the Ohio Revised Code, Section 2911.21(A), a criminal trespass occurs when a person, without privilege (permission) to do so:

  • Knowingly enters or remains on the land or premises of another    
  • Knowingly enters or remains on the land or premises of another, when the business is closed or area restricted to certain people – and the offender knows this
  • Recklessly enters or remains on the land or premises of another, after they have been told to leave either in person or by a posted sign, or where there is a fence that restricts access
  • Being on the land or premises of another, negligently fail or refuse to leave after being told to leave in person or where there is a “No Trespassing” or other sign posted restricting access

It is not a defense to criminal trespass that it was public property.  If access is restricted by a sign, hours, or in person (told to leave), you can still be charged with trespass.  

It is also not a defense to criminal trespass that the defendant had permission to be there if they lied or otherwise deceived the owner to give them access. 

O.R.C. 2911.21(A)(1) criminal trespass columbus

PENALTIES FOR CRIMINAL TRESPASS IN COLUMBUS

Criminal trespass is a fourth degree misdemeanor. 

Potential penalties include:  30 days in jail (maximum), $250 fine (maximum).

If the defendant trespassed in snowmobile, off-highway motorcycle or all-purpose vehicle, the fine could be doubled. 

If the offender previously has been convicted of two or more criminal trespass violations, and the offender used a snowmobile, off-highway motorcycle or all-purpose vehicle in each case, the court can impound the vehicle for a minimum 60 days. 

COMMON DEFENSES TO CRIMINAL TRESPASS CHARGES

DEFENSE OF “PRIVILEGE”

Under ORC 2911.21(A)(1), you cannot be convicted of criminal trespass if you have a “privilege” to enter the building / land.  

The defense of “privilege” would include, for example, where the “trespasser”:

  • Owns the property
  • Is on a lease at the property
  • Was invited by an owner / leaseholder to visit the property
  • Necessity (i.e. to save someone from imminent danger)
  • Police officers performing their lawful duty in a reasonable manner 
  • Has consent or permission of the owner / resident to be on the property

DEFENSE OF PROPERTY DOES NOT APPLY

The Court in State v. Nigrin, 2016-Ohio-2901 recently found that the “defense of property” privilege does not apply to criminal trespass cases. 

In Nigrin, the Defendant entered onto the property of his neighbor to confront his neighbor about pieces of the neighbor’s barn that had fallen on the Defendant’s property and allegedly caused damage. The Defendant had been informed several times before this incident that he was not welcome on the neighbor’s property, and was arrested and found guilty of criminal trespass.

 The court held that pieces of the neighbor’s barn falling onto the Defendant’s property did not rise to the level of a necessity to give the Defendant a privilege to enter onto the neighbor’s land.

The Court in Nigrin found that the Defendant’s argument, that he was trespassing in defense of his property from the neighbor’s barn, was lacking because the Defendant was not on his own property trying kick his neighbor off . Further, the defense of property applies when force is used, and no evidence of force in this case was presented. State v. Nigrin, 2016-Ohio-2901.

If you have been charged with criminal trespass and have questions about your case, talk to one of our Columbus criminal trespass attorneys at 614-361-2804. 

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