Knowledgeable Tempe Criminal Defense Attorney Defending the Rights of Individuals Charged with Criminal Trespass

Under Arizona criminal law, trespassing on another’s property is referred to as criminal trespass. There are three degrees of criminal trespass, ranging in seriousness from a class 3 misdemeanor to a class 5 felony. All criminal trespassing laws in Arizona require the government to prove that the defendant knew or should have known that they did not have permission to be on another’s property; however, there are some major differences between criminal trespass in the third degree, criminal trespass in the second degree, and criminal trespass in the first degree.

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our dedicated Tempe criminal defense lawyer has over two decades of experience defending the rights of clients charged with criminal trespass. We have helped countless people charged with serious crimes move on with their lives after an arrest and look forward to how we can help in your case.

What is Trespassing in Arizona?

In Arizona, simply being on another’s property without permission is considered criminal trespass. However, the seriousness of the offense depends on who owns the land and the type of property.

Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree Criminal trespass in the third degree applies when someone enters or refuses to leave another’s property after they were asked to leave by law enforcement or the owner of the property. Entering or refusing to leave certain areas on or around railroad tracks is also considered criminal trespass in the third degree. Criminal trespass in the third degree is a class 3 misdemeanor. Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree

Criminal trespass in the second degree prohibits wrongfully entering or refusing to leave another’s nonresidential structure or fenced commercial yard. Criminal trespass in the third degree is a class 2 misdemeanor.

Criminal Trespass in the First Degree

Criminal trespass in the first degree prohibits knowingly doing any of the following:

  1. Entering or refusing to leave a residential structure, such as a home;
  2. Entering or refusing to leave a fenced yard;
  3. Looking into another’s home from the yard;
  4. Entering onto land for which another has a valid mineral claim with the intent to obtain the minerals;
  5. Entering any property owned by a religious organization with the intent to deface, burn or mutilate the property; or
  6. Entering or remaining unlawfully in a critical public service facility.

Depending on which subsection applies, criminal trespass in the first degree is either a class 5 felony (subsection 6), class 6 felony (subsections 1 and 5), or class 1 misdemeanor (subsection 2, 3, and 4).

Defenses to Criminal Trespass Charges

Criminal trespass, like all other crimes, has certain defenses that can prevent the government from obtaining a conviction. While each case is different, and whether a defense applies depends on the specific facts at issue, some of the most common defenses to criminal trespass charges include:

A Lack of Knowledge

One of the elements of criminal trespass is entering another’s property without permission. Thus, if you thought you had permission or previously had permission, it may be a defense to the charges you’re facing.

A Lack of Intent

Before a judge or jury can convict you of criminal trespass, the government must show that you knowingly entered another’s property. Thus, if you accidentally find yourself on another’s property, it may be a defense.


If you had the owner’s permission to be on their property (or reasonably though you had permission), your entrance onto the property wasn’t unlawful, and you can’t be convicted of criminal trespass charges.

Have You Been Charged with Criminal Trespass in Tempe?

If you are facing criminal trespass or burglary charges, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced Tempe criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to begin working on your defense. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we proudly represent individuals charged with trespassing, ensuring that we do everything possible to reach the best outcome possible. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call Attorney Novak at (480) 413-1499. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.