What Is Considered Trespassing in Colorado?

Categories: Criminal Defense

What Is Considered Trespassing in Colorado?

Note: This article has been refreshed and revised as of February 28, 2024, to ensure the information remains current and accurate.

Generally, criminal trespass is when an individual unlawfully enters or remains on someone else’s property. If you are facing criminal trespassing charges in Colorado, it is essential to understand the distinction between the varying degrees of this crime. This article will break down everything you need to know, and of course, our defense attorney is always available to answer your questions. Contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., to schedule a free consultation.

Trespassing Charges in Colorado

In Colorado, trespassing charges can vary. Charges can be as follows:

  • First-degree trespassing,
  • Second-degree trespassing, or
  • Third-degree trespassing.

The degree charged typically depends on the type of property involved and the reason for entering or remaining on the premises. There are certain instances in which trespass can be more serious based on specific circumstances.

Trespassing Laws in Colorado

The trespassing laws in Colorado are lengthy but fairly straightforward.

First-Degree Criminal Trespass

First-degree criminal trespass is the most serious of the three.

An individual commits first-degree criminal trespass if they knowingly and unlawfully enter or remain in another person’s dwelling or enter any motor vehicle with the intent to commit a crime.

To qualify as first-degree trespassing, certain circumstances must be met.

  • The property in question must be a person’s home or motor vehicle, and
  • You must enter it with the intent to commit a crime (e.g., burglary, theft).

It is the most severe form of trespassing because these places are the most likely to be occupied by people.

Second-Degree Criminal Trespass

An individual commits second-degree criminal trespass if they do any of the following:

  • Unlawfully enter or remain on the premises of another when such premises are enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders or are fenced;
  • Knowingly and unlawfully enter or remain in or upon the common areas of a hotel, motel, condominium, or apartment building; or
  • Knowingly and unlawfully enter or remain in someone else’s motor vehicle.

Second-degree trespass encompasses more types of property than first-degree. In other words, to be classified as second-degree trespassing, the property in question does not need to be someone’s home. Second-degree trespass also further expands on motor vehicle trespass and does not require that the trespasser intend to commit a crime with or within the car.

An example of second-degree trespass is if someone goes into an unlocked car to seek shelter from rain or bad weather. Here, that person is trespassing but does not intend to commit a crime while in the car.

Third-Degree Criminal Trespass

Third-degree criminal trespass is the least severe of the three trespassing crimes. A person commits third-degree criminal trespass if they unlawfully enter or remain in or upon another person’s premises.

Generally, third-degree trespass is charged when the property is not a dwelling and is not fenced or enclosed, intending to keep intruders out.

An example of third-degree trespassing is if someone wanders onto private property that does not have a fence or wall, just simply a “private property” sign. It is still considered trespassing, but the trespasser did not hop or get around a fence.

Penalties for a Criminal Trespass Conviction

As with most criminal offenses, the penalties for criminal trespass depend upon the degree charged.

First-Degree Criminal Trespass Penalties

In Colorado, first-degree trespass is usually charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by:

  • Up to 364 days in jail,
  • Up to $1,000 in fines, or
  • A combination of both.

However, if trespassing occurs in an occupied dwelling, it becomes a class 6 felony. A conviction will then be punishable by:

  • Up to 18 months in prison,
  • One year of mandatory parole, or
  • A minimum fine of $1,000, up to a maximum fine of $100,000.

You will be subject to a combination of the above penalties.

It’s interesting to note that before March 1, 2022, first-degree trespass was a class 5 felony punishable by 1-3 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Second-Degree Criminal Trespass

Second-degree criminal trespass can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.

Trespassing in a motor vehicle is generally a class 2 misdemeanor in Colorado. A conviction is punishable by:

  • Up to 120 days in jail, and
  • Up to $750 in fines.

You can be sentenced to a combination of jail time and fines.

Trespassing on agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony is considered a class 4 felony. A conviction is punishable by:

  • 2-6 years in prison,
  • A minimum fine of $2,000 but up to $500,000, or
  • A combination of the two.

If the crime does not fall into either of the two categories above (i.e., motor vehicle or agricultural land), second-degree criminal trespass is generally charged as a petty offense punishable by:

  • Up to 10 days in jail, or
  • Up to $300 in fines.

You may be sentenced to one or both.

Third-Degree Criminal Trespass

Under Colorado law, third-degree criminal trespass is typically a petty offense. A conviction is still punishable by:

  • Up to 10 days in jail, or
  • A fine of up to $300.

As with second and first-degree trespass, you can be subject to jail time, a fine, or both.

How to Beat a Trespassing Charge in Colorado

Trespassing charges can be challenging to beat but not impossible. There are several defenses to Colorado criminal trespassing charges. Common defenses include the following:

  • Lack of intent to commit a crime while on the property,
  • You were lawfully on the property,
  • You had the property owner’s consent to be there,
  • You lacked knowledge that it was private property,
  • You lacked knowledge that it was agricultural land,
  • You did not know that the property was a dwelling, or
  • It was abandoned property.

After assessing your case, your lawyer will discuss possible defenses that are applicable to your specific case.

Protect Your Rights and Fight Criminal Trespass Charges

At Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., we have over two decades of experience helping individuals accused of crimes clear their names and get their lives back. If you are facing a criminal trespass charge, it is imperative to hire a defense attorney to protect your rights and defend you against the charges. We make it a priority to be accessible to our clients and provide unmatched personal representation. Contact us today to schedule a confidential free consultation.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.