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Understanding Florida Trespassing Laws


Dan and Brandon are goofing around on school grounds the weekend before senior graduation. They decide it would be funny to spray paint the gymnasium and break the awards display case in the principal’s office. A silent alarm is triggered and both students are arrested for trespassing on school grounds, vandalism and criminal mischief. In addition, the school has informed both students and their families that they cannot participate in the graduation ceremony scheduled for the following afternoon. Brandon may lose his soccer scholarship if convicted and Dan may also be risking his collegiate future as well. What are their options? What exactly is a “criminal trespass”?

Defining Florida Trespass Laws 

Florida statute 810.08 states that a person can be charged with trespass of a structure or dwelling if they willfully enter a dwelling without express permission from the owner. A person can also be charged with trespassing if they were initially invited on the premises by the owner and subsequently refuse to leave. Trespass of a structure or dwelling is a second degree misdemeanor. If there was another person present in the structure at the time of the trespass, the offense is enhanced to a first degree misdemeanor. In addition, if at the time of the trespass the alleged trespasser was armed with a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife, the charge is further enhanced to a third degree felony. The property owner also has discretion to keep the trespasser in custody or detained while waiting for authorities to arrive.

Trespass on school grounds is a separate offense. A person can be charged with trespass on school grounds if they enter or remain on the school campus (including athletic fields) without permission or authorization. Students currently suspended or expelled from a school cannot be on school property for any reason whatsoever. Doing so is considered a criminal trespass. Defendants convicted of trespass on school grounds are guilty of a first degree misdemeanor. Officers also have discretion to arrest a person on school grounds if they have probable cause that the person is trespassing. 

Potential Penalties if Convicted 

In Florida, the penalty for a second degree misdemeanor is up to 60 days in jail and/or 6 months probation and fines. The penalty for a first degree misdemeanor is up to 1 year in jail in addition to probation and fines. The penalty for a third degree felony is no more than 5 years in state prison, 5 years probation and fines not to exceed $5000.   Because a potential trespass on school grounds is considered endangering the lives of young children and minors, it is not uncommon for a person to be wrongfully arrested and charged with trespass. Officers also do not need to serve a warrant to make an arrest. If you believe you were wrongfully arrested or you did have permission to be on school grounds or premises, it is crucial you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to prepare your case. 

Contact Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney William Wallshein 

If you, a loved one or child have been arrested for criminal trespassing, you need to take the charges seriously. Even though in most cases you are facing a misdemeanor, a misdemeanor conviction can still wreak havoc on your career and educational prospects as well as professional development. For young adults just embarking on college, a misdemeanor can be detrimental to a promising future. This is especially true if your child is facing multiple charges. However, you are not without options. West Palm Beach criminal attorney William Wallshein is an experienced professional who understands the nuances of an effective criminal defense. He also appreciates what you have to lose and works hard to achieve the best results for his clients. Call today to schedule a consultation.



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