Colorado Criminal Trespass Laws
(18-4-502, 18-4-503 and 18-4-504 C.R.S.)

field with no trespassing sign

Colorado trespassing laws

You commit Colorado criminal trespass when you unlawfully enter or remain on someone else's property.

In Colorado, trespass can be in the first, second or third degree, depending on:

  • The type of property involved, and
  • Your reason for entering or remaining on the property.

Trespass is more serious if the property is someone's home or is agricultural land, such as a ranch or farm.

Penalties for criminal trespass in Colorado range from as little as a fine and probation to as much as three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

To help you better understand Colorado's criminal trespass laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

Man climbing over a fence

1. What is criminal trespass in Colorado?

1.1. First degree trespass -- 18-4-502 C.R.S.

18-4-502 C.R.S. provides:

A person commits the crime of first degree criminal trespass if such person knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in a dwelling of another or if such person enters any motor vehicle with intent to commit a crime therein.

The keys to first degree trespass are:

  • The property is someone's home, or
  • The property is someone's motor vehicle and you are entering it to commit a crime (such as auto theft).

Because these are places in which people are likely to be present, this is the most serious form of trespassing.

Note that the vehicle does not need to be locked for you to be charged with first degree trespass. Even entering the open bed of a pick-up truck is enough if your intent is to commit a crime in the vehicle.

  • Example: While her UPS driver is delivering packages in the building, Allie climbs into the back of the truck, intending to steal some packages. Because she enters the vehicle intending to commit a crime (theft), she is guilty of first degree trespass.

1.2. Second degree trespass 18-4-503 C.R.S.

18-4-503 (1) C.R.S. provides:

A person commits the crime of second degree criminal trespass if such person:

  • (a) Unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the premises of another which are enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders or are fenced; or
  • (b) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the common areas of a hotel, motel, condominium, or apartment building; or
  • (c) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in a motor vehicle of another.

Second degree trespass differs from first degree trespassing in that the property does not need to be someone's home. It also applies to motor vehicles you enter if you don't intend to commit a crime therein.

  • Example: On a cold winter night, Bob, a homeless man, sees an unlocked car. He climbs into the back to stay warm. Because he had no intention of committing a crime inside the car, he is guilty of second degree trespass.

1.3. Third degree trespass -- 18-4-504 C.R.S.

18-4-504 (1) provides:

A person commits the crime of third degree criminal trespass if such person unlawfully enters or remains in or upon premises of another.

Third degree trespass is usually charged when the property is not a dwelling and is not fenced or enclosed to keep intruders out.

  • Example: Carol is out hiking a public trail one day when she decides to take a shortcut across someone's field. Although there is a “private property” sign nailed to a tree, there is no fence around the property. Carol is guilty solely of third degree trespass.

2. Colorado trespassing penalties

2.1. First degree trespass

Under 18-4-502 C.R.S., first degree criminal trespass is a class 5 felony.

Consequences of first degree trespass can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

2.2. Second degree trespass

Second degree trespass -- 18-4-502 C.R.S -- is usually a class 3 misdemeanor. Penalties for second degree trespass can include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $50-$750.

However, second degree trespass is a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor if the premises have been classified by the county assessor as agricultural land, such as a farm or ranch. As a class 2 misdemeanor, Colorado second degree trespass can have consequences that include:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1,000.

And you if you trespass on agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony thereon, it is a Colorado class 4 felony. Felony penalties for second degree trespass can include:

  • 2-6 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

In addition, if you are convicted of second degree trespass for entering or remaining in a vehicle, the Colorado DMV will revoke your driver's license (usually for one year if you are at least 21 years of age).

2.3. Third degree trespass

Third degree criminal trespass is a usually a class 1 petty offense under 18-4-502 C.R.S. Consequences of trespass as a petty offense can include:

  • A fine of up to $500, and/or 
  • 6 months in jail.

However, third degree trespass becomes a class 3 misdemeanor if the premises have been classified by the county assessor as agricultural land. As a class 3 misdemeanor, penalties for third class trespassing can include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $50-$750.

And if you trespass on Colorado agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony, it is a class 5 felony. Penalties for trespassing on agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

3. Defenses to Colorado trespassing charges

  • You had the property owner's consent to be on the property.
  • You were lawfully on the property.
  • You didn't know you were entering private property.
  • You didn't know you were entering agricultural land.
  • You didn't intend to commit a crime on the property.
  • The premises don't qualify as a dwelling.

4. Trespass and domestic violence

Trespassing is often charged along with domestic violence. If you unlawfully enter the home or workplace of a current or former intimate partner and are charged with trespass and domestic violence, you will be hit with a mandatory restraining order.

It is imperative therefore, that you retain the best Colorado domestic violence lawyer you can as soon as you have been charged with domestic violence. We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the domestic violence charges dropped so that you do not lose your freedom.

For more information on this topic, please see our article on Colorado domestic violence.

5. Trespass as a plea bargain to burglary charges

Trespassing has certain elements in common with Colorado burglary laws. Both involved knowingly and unlawfully entering or remaining on someone else's property.

But burglary is a more serious crime. However, burglary always requires proof of intent to commit a crime, and intent can be hard to prove.

In a borderline case, an experienced Colorado criminal lawyer may be able to get the prosecutor to accept a plea bargain to trespass charges, rather than burglary. This has several benefits:

  • Trespassing carries less of a social stigma than burglary.
  • Trespassing is less likely to be punished as a felony.
  • Sentences are generally shorter for trespassing than for burglary.

6. Effects of a trespassing conviction on immigration status

People who are not U.S. citizens need to be very careful when considering a plea bargain that includes Colorado criminal trespass.

Under certain circumstances, trespass can constitute a "crime involving moral turpitude. Such circumstances include entering someone's property with the intent to commit a crime.

However, not all criminal trespasses are crimes of moral turpitude. A skilled lawyer who understands Colorado criminal law and immigration consequences can make sure you don't inadvertently plead to the wrong form of trespass.

Call us for help…

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Colorado's trespassing laws can be confusing. But our caring Colorado criminal defense attorneys understand the distinctions between Colorado's various degrees of trespass -- knowledge that can mean the difference between probation and a prison sentence.

If you have been charged with criminal trespass in Colorado we invite you to contact us via the form on this page for a free consultation. Find out why our compassionate Colorado criminal defense lawyers are considered some of the best trespass attorneys in Denver and elsewhere in Colorado.

Communities we serve include Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, Thornton, Pueblo, Arvada, Westminster and Centennial.

You can also call our Denver home office, conveniently located at:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
720-955-6112

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