CRS 18-4-503 - Second-Degree Trespass Law in Colorado

CRS 18-4-503 is the Colorado criminal trespass law that defines the crime of second-degree trespass.

A person commits this offense if that 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.

The Different Types

In Colorado, there are three types of criminal trespass:

Second-degree trespass is unique because it deals with:

  • the unlawful entry of common areas of hotels, motels, condominiums, and apartment buildings; and
  • the unlawful entry of a motor vehicle without intent to commit a crime.

Below, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about second-degree trespass for Colorado residents:

Trespassing
Second-degree trespass is unique because it deals with: the unlawful entry of common areas of hotels, motels, condominiums, and apartment buildings.

1. What is second-degree trespass under Colorado criminal law?

CRS 18-4-503 defines the offense of second-degree trespass and states:

A person commits this offense if that 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.1

1.1 How is this different from first-degree trespass?

Unlike with first-degree trespass:

  • the building entered does not have to be a dwelling, and
  • no intent to commit a crime is required when unlawfully entering a motor vehicle.2

2. What does "knowingly" mean under Colorado law?

A person commits an offense knowingly if he or she:

  • conducts him or herself in a way or under a circumstance prohibited by a Colorado trespass law, or
  • the person is aware that the conduct is practically certain to cause a result prohibited by the law.3

A person must commit each element of the offense knowingly in order to be guilty of the crime. If he or she does not, that person must be found not guilty.

3. What does "unlawfully" mean under Colorado law?

For purposes of CRS 18-4-503, unlawfully means:

  • without permission or consent
  • whether express or implied
  • of the owner of the property.4

Basically, this means that if a person had permission to be on the property, he or she could not have been on the property unlawfully unless he or she remained on the property after the initial consent had been taken away.

Example: Alice is homeless and enters a store during open hours but hides in a back room so she will have a place to sleep for the night. She has no intent to commit any other crime besides the actual trespass itself. She can be charged with second-degree trespass.

4. What is a "dwelling" under Colorado law?

If a person trespasses in a dwelling or residence of another person, he or she could face first-degree trespass charges, rather than second-degree charges. Examples of dwellings include but are not limited to:

  • a house,
  • an apartment,
  • a garage attached to a home,5
  • a trailer home,
  • a jail cell, or
  • a condo.6

Any part of a building can be a dwelling if it is part of someone's residence or lodgings. If the building is not a dwelling, second-degree trespass charges are what the prosecutor may charge.

4.1 What does a fence or other enclosure have to do with this charge?

What makes second-degree and third-degree trespass different from one another is the fact that the premises must be fenced or otherwise enclosed if the person only trespassed on the land of another but not in an actual structure.

Example: Sally climbs a locked fencing area to get inside of a private park so that she can play on the playground. (Sally is 21). She never goes into a building and remains only on the land. Because the area is fenced and meant to keep out others, she can be charged with second-degree trespass.

If instead the area had not been fenced, she could only be charged with third-degree trespass.

5. How can I be convicted of trespass in a motor vehicle?

A motor vehicle includes but is not limited to a:

  • car,
  • truck,
  • boat,
  • SUV, or
  • motorcycle.

If a person unlawfully enters in or on a motor vehicle, there does not need to be an intent to commit a crime in order to be charged with second-degree trespass. If the trespass is committed with the intent to commit another crime, the charge can be raised to first-degree trespass.

5.1 Does the vehicle have to be locked for this offense?

No. The motor vehicle does not have to be locked for a person to be charged with second-degree trespass.

Even entering into the open bed of a pick-up truck could constitute the necessary "entering" of the vehicle for the crime to be charged. The entrance only has to be unlawful in order for it to constitute a criminal offense.

6. What are common areas of premises under Colorado law?

Under CRS 18-4-503, a person can be charged with second-degree trespass if he or she:

  • knowingly and unlawfully
  • enters or remains
  • in or upon the common areas of a
    • hotel,
    • motel,
    • condominium, or
    • apartment building.

These "common areas" include places such as:

  • a hotel or apartment lobby,
  • a hallway,
  • a pool area,
  • a private lawn, or
  • another area commonly shared by residents of the building but is not a dwelling.

Example: Christian is wet from a long walk in the unexpected rain and ducks into a hotel lobby to get out of the weather. He sits down in a chair and is approached by a hotel employee. The employee first asks if he is a guest of the hotel, and Christian says he is not. Christian is asked to leave but refuses to do so. He can be charged with second-degree trespass.

7. What are the penalties for second-degree trespass in Colorado?

Second-degree trespass is usually a Colorado 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 lands, like a farm or ranch. As a class 2 misdemeanor, Colorado penalties include:

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

If a person trespasses on agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony on the property, it is a Colorado class 4 felony. Felony penalties for second-degree trespass, in this case, can include:

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

Lastly, 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).

8. What defenses can I raise to my charge?

To defend against a second-degree trespass charge, an experienced attorney can raise certain defenses on your behalf, such as:

  • the defendant had permission to be on the property;
  • the defendant did not know he or she was trespassing;
  • the land was not agricultural;
  • the structure was not a common area; or
  • the prosecutor did not prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Call us for help...

For questions about second-degree trespass or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.

We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. CRS 18-4-503.
  2. CRS 18-4-502.
  3. See CRS 18-1-501(6).
  4. Same as 1.
  5. People v. Jiminez, 1982, 651 P.2d 395.
  6. People v. Nichols, App.1996, 920 P.2d 901, rehearing denied.

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