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Criminal Trespass

Related Crimes

Criminal trespass often overlaps with, or is similar to, other crimes. Three types of such related crimes are relevant here.

The use or threat of force. Since criminal trespass may involve the use or threat of physical force, it overlaps with crimes prohibiting such use or threat. In particular, a criminal trespass may also involve the following distinct crimes:

  1. Breach of the peace. This crime includes not only unlawful force but also such offenses as language or other conduct that is abusive, insulting, loud, or disturbing.
  2. Battery. This crime prohibits any unlawful touching of another's person.
  3. Assault. This crime prohibits attempted battery or conduct that threatens another with battery.

Criminal forcible entry and detainer. Criminal trespass overlaps to a considerable degree with the crime of forcible entry and detainer. Forcible entry is the entry onto another's land accompanied by force, threat, violence, or other breach of the peace. Forcible detainer covers cases of forceful refusal to leave, rather than cases of entry. The crime of forcible entry and detainer, like criminal trespass, is designed to prohibit the use of potentially violent private action in disputes over the rights to possession of property. Thus, both crimes focus on possession rather than on the ownership of the property involved.

The exact relationship between trespass and forcible entry and detainer is often unclear. Some authorities indicate that trespass prohibits interference with the possession of chattels (tangible personal property), whereas forcible entry concerns the possession of real property. However, such a distinction is not followed universally, and there are virtually no modern decisions involving criminal trespass in relation to chattels.

Entry with specific intent and under specific circumstances. Criminal trespass also overlaps with a class of crimes prohibiting certain types of entry with a specific intent. For example, the common law crime of burglary involves a type of entry with a specific intent—breaking and entering a dwelling at night with intent to commit a felony. Many codes have expanded this type of crime and include prohibitions on entry upon land or into buildings with a specific intent, for example, entry upon land with intent to steal livestock.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCriminal Trespass - Introduction, Related Crimes, Historical Background, Bibliography