ARS § 13-1502 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of third-degree criminal trespass. You commit this offense when you either knowingly enter or unlawfully remain on real property after the property owner or law enforcement request that you leave, or knowingly enter or unlawfully remain on certain property belonging to a railroad company. A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
Note that Arizona law divides criminal trespassing into three different degrees. These are first-degree trespass under ARS 13-1504 (the most severe crime of the three), criminal trespass in the second degree under ARS 13-1503, and criminal trespass in the third degree under ARS 13-1502 (the least severe).
The language of ARS 13-1502 states that:
A person commits criminal trespass in the third degree by:
- Knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully on any real property after a reasonable request to leave by a law enforcement officer, the owner or any other person having lawful control over such property, or reasonable notice prohibiting entry.
- Knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully on the right-of-way for tracks, or the storage or switching yards or rolling stock of a railroad company.
- remaining on another person’s residential yard after a request to leave by the owner of the property.
- staying put on a commercial yard after a police officer makes a request to leave.
- entering a railroad company’s switching yards when the company has “No Trespassing” signs posted.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to defend against third-degree trespass charges. Some of these include showing that:
- a defendant did not act knowingly,
- there was no reasonable request to leave, and/or
- the accused did not enter a prohibited part of a railroad company’s property.
- custody in jail for up to 30 days, and/or
- a maximum fine of $500.
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 “third-degree criminal trespass”?
People in Arizona can violate ARS 13-1502 in two different ways. These are by knowingly entering or unlawfully remaining on:
- any real property after a reasonable request to leave by a law enforcement officer, the owner or any other person having lawful control over the property, or reasonable notice prohibiting entry, or
- the right-of-way for train tracks, or the storage or switching yards or rolling stock of a railroad company.i
People act “knowingly” under this law if they:
- commit an unlawful act, and
- are aware of the unlawful nature of their act.ii
Note that this statute applies to both private and public property.iii
Further, the question as to whether a request to leave someone’s property is reasonable is determined by the facts of a particular case.iv
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1502 charges?
Defendants have the right to challenge trespass charges with a legal defense. Three common defenses include defendants showing that:
- they did not act knowingly.
- there was no reasonable request to leave.
- they were not on a prohibited part of a railroad company.
2.1 No knowledge
People are only guilty of third-degree trespass if they knowingly enter or remain on a piece of real property. A defense, then, is for accused people to show that they did not know they were on someone else’s land.
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 reasonable request
The language of this statute states that a violation occurs if a person remains on real property after a reasonable request to leave. This means it is always a defense for a person to say that there was never a request to leave, or a request was unreasonable.
2.3 No prohibited part of a railroad company
As to entering or remaining on the property of a railroad company, ARS 13-1502 applies to specific parts of a company’s property (like a switching yard or train tracks). Therefore, it is a defense for an accused to assert that he/she was not on or in one of these specific areas.
3. What are the penalties for third degree trespass?
Third-degree criminal trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor under Arizona law.v The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail for up to one month, and/or
- a maximum fine of $500.
Note that in some cases a judge can award a defendant with probation in lieu of a jail term.
As an aside, Arizona law recognizes three types of misdemeanors:
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to third-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
The above statutes define burglary as entering or unlawfully remaining in a structure or property with the intent to commit theft or any other felony.
Note that, like criminal trespass, burglary requires someone to enter or unlawfully remain on another’s property. However, unlike trespass, burglary also requires that the person intend to commit a theft or other felony.
4.2 Criminal damage – ARS 13-1602
ARS 13-1602 is the Arizona law that makes it a crime for people to recklessly commit certain acts, like:
- defacing another person’s property (maybe, for example, a religious symbol), or
- tampering with another person’s property so that its value or function is substantially impaired.
Note that if a person commits third degree criminal trespass, 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 13-1502, third-degree trespass.
4.3 Stalking – ARS 13-2923
ARS 13-2923 is the Arizona statute that defines the offense of stalking. People commit this crime if they engage in certain acts that result in the “victim” suffering:
- emotional distress, or
- fear of injury or property damage.
While third-degree criminal trespass is a misdemeanor offense, stalking is always charged as an Arizona felony.
- Arizona Revised Statute 13-1502 Subsection A.
- Blomquist v. Town of Marana, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 26144 (9th Cir. Ariz. 2012). See also State v. Mitchell, 138 Ariz. 478 (1983).
- State v. Barr, 183 Ariz. 434 (1995). Private property includes both residential structures and nonresidential structures.
- Knox v. Southwest Airlines, 124 F.3d 1103(1997).
- A.R.S. 13-1502.