There are two common ways to commit trespassing in Utah.
- Entering or remaining on property with the wrong state of mind. (The wrong state of mind could mean either that you intend to cause annoyance or commit a crime, or that you were “reckless” as to whether or not you caused fear.)
- Entering or remaining on property when you know you the owner doesn’t want you there (Either because you were told to leave, or because you had to cross a fence or a “no-trespassing” sign).
Possible Defenses to Trespassing Charges
Because this offense essentially requires the prosecution to prove a bad “state of mind,” proving that you were “innocently” on someone else’s property should be a good defense. For instance, if you’re hiking through the woods and you unwittingly walk through someone’s private property, you are probably not guilty of criminal trespassing.
Under the Utah Trespassing statute, it is also a defense to criminal trespassing if:
- the property was open to the public when the actor entered or remained; and
- the actor’s conduct did not substantially interfere with the owner’s use of the property.
So, apparently, even if the owner tells you to leave or you are on his property planning to steal his doorknobs, you are not criminally trespassing if that property is open to the public and you’re not causing trouble. The problem is with how a court defines “substantial interference.” Some courts might well decide that “looking like a bum” is enough substantial interference.
Because some of these possible defenses involve complicated legal principles, having a good trespassing attorney help you out is probably a good idea. Contact me for a free consultation about your case.