ARS § 13-1503 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of second-degree criminal trespass. People commit this offense when they knowingly enter or remain unlawfully on a nonresidential property or in any fenced commercial yard. A violation of this law can lead to a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to four months in jail.
Note that Arizona State law divides criminal trespassing into three different degrees. These are first-degree trespass under ARS 13-1504 (the most severe crime of the three), second-degree trespass under ARS 13-1503, and third-degree trespass under ARS 13-1502 (the least severe).
The language of ARS 13-1503 states that:
A person commits criminal trespass in the second degree by knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully in or on any nonresidential structure or in any fenced commercial yard.
- remaining on a non-residential yard without the property owner’s permission.
- entering the property of a railroad company where there are “No Trespassing” signs posted.
- going onto a warehouse’s fenced property without authority to do so.
People facing second-degree trespass charges can challenge them with a legal defense. Some common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not act knowingly,
- the property involved was neither nonresidential nor a fenced yard, and/or
- they did not remain on the property.
- confinement in jail for up to four months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $750.
In this article, our criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “second-degree criminal trespass”?
ARS 13-1503 says people are guilty of second-degree trespass if they knowingly:
- enter or unlawfully remain in or on a certain property, and
- that real property is either a nonresidential property (including certain religious property) or a fenced commercial yard.1
For example, a person violates this statute if he/she knowingly enters a designated media area (without permission) at an event on a university campus.2 The media area represents nonresidential property.
People act “knowingly” under this law if they:
- commit an unlawful act, and
- are aware of the unlawful nature of their act.3
2. Are there defenses to charges under ARS 13-1503?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to challenge allegations brought under this statute. Three common challenges include showing that:
- the defendant did not act knowingly.
- there was not nonresidential property or a fenced commercial yard.
- the accused did not remain on the property.
2.1 No knowledge
People are only guilty of second-degree trespass if they knowingly go on nonresidential or fenced commercial property. A defense, then, is for accused people to show they did not know they were on someone else’s land. Perhaps, for example, nothing on the land gave the accused reasonable notice that he/she was trespassing.
A similar defense is for a defendant to show that he/she had the property owner’s permission to go onto, or stay on, the specific land in question.
2.2 No nonresidential or fenced commercial property
Recall that defendants are not guilty under this statute unless they entered or unlawfully remained upon nonresidential property or a fenced commercial yard. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that the property in question was not of this nature.
Note, though, that Arizona criminal law says that if the property were residential property, a defendant could still face trespass charges under ARS 13-1504.4
2.3 Did not remain
People often violate this statute by unlawfully remaining on a piece of property. Therefore, defendants can raise the defense that they did not remain on someone’s land. Perhaps, for example, they left the property after there was a reasonable request to do so by either:
- the property owner, or
- a law enforcement officer.
3. What are the penalties for second-degree trespass?
Second-degree criminal trespass is a Class 2 misdemeanor under Arizona law.5 The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to four months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $750.
Note that in some cases a judge can award a defendant with probation in lieu of jail term.
As an aside, Arizona law recognizes three types of misdemeanors:
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to second-degree criminal trespass. These are:
- burglary – ARS 13-1501-ARS 13-1508,
- criminal damage – ARS 13-1602, and
- stalking – ARS 13-2923.
4.1 Burglary – ARS 13-1501-ARS 13-1508
Under the above statutes, Arizona law defines burglary as entering or unlawfully remaining in a structure or property with the intent to commit theft or any other felony.
As with criminal trespass, burglary requires an accused to enter or unlawfully remain on someone’s property. However, unlike trespass, burglary also requires that the person intends to commit a theft or other felony.
4.2 Criminal damage – ARS 13-1602
ARS 13-1602 is the Arizona statute that says it is a crime for people to recklessly commit certain acts, like:
- defacing another person’s property, or
- tampering with another person’s property so that its value or function is substantially impaired.
Note that if a person commits criminal trespass (per ARS 13-1503), and then damages some other property while on the land, law enforcement can charge the party with both:
- ARS 13-1602, criminal damage, and
- ARS 13-1503, second-degree trespass.
4.3 Stalking – ARS 13-2923
ARS 13-2923 is the Arizona statute that says a person engages in the crime of stalking if he/she commits certain acts that result in the “victim” suffering:
- emotional distress, or
- fear of injury or property damage.
While second-degree criminal trespassing is a misdemeanor offense, stalking is always charged as a felony in Arizona.
- Arizona revised statutes 13-1503.
- See, for example, United States v. Schipke, 446 F. App’x 51 (9th Cir. 2011).
- Blomquist v. Town of Marana, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 26144 (9th Cir. Ariz. 2012). See also State v. Mitchell, 138 Ariz. 478 (1983).
- This statute also applies when an accused enters or remains on: a critical public service facility, property that has a valid mineral claim, and real property where the defendant engages in defacing a religious symbol.
- A.R.S. 13-1503.