CRS 18-4-504 - "Third-Degree" Trespass Laws & Penalties in Colorado

CRS 18-4-504 is the Colorado criminal trespassing law that defines the crime of "third-degree trespass."

A person commits third-degree trespass if that person:

  • unlawfully enters or remains
  • in or upon the premises of another.

The Different Types

In Colorado, there are three types of criminal trespass:

  1. first-degree trespass (CRS 18-4-502)
  2. second-degree trespass (CRS 18-4-503)
  3. third-degree trespass (CRS 18-4-504)

Third-degree trespass is unique because it deals with individuals who have trespassed on land or premises that are not enclosed or fenced.

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

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Third-degree trespass is unique because it deals with individuals who have trespassed on land or premises that are not enclosed or fenced.

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

CRS 18-4-504 defines the offense of third-degree trespass and states:

A person commits this offense if that person:

  • unlawfully enters or remains
  • in or upon the premises of another.1

1.1 How is this different from second-degree trespass?

Unlike with second-degree trespass:

  • the building or premises entered
  • do not have to be enclosed or fenced.

Example: Paul and his girlfriend Ann enter a public park after hours (there are signs with the hours listed). They find a place in the shelter to "hang out." The area is not enclosed by a fence, and the shelter is not enclosed with walls but is open other than a roof. Because the area is not enclosed or fenced, Paul and Ann can only be charged with third-degree trespass and not second-degree trespass.

If the area had been fenced off or the building was enclosed by walls, the charge would have been for second-degree trespass.

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
  • 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.

Example: Chloe arrives at an address she believes to be the destination of a birthday party she is invited to. In fact, her GPS stopped her early and her true destination is down one more block. Chloe walks into the yard and goes around back for the party. She is confronted by Frank, a grumpy kind of person who orders her off his property. She immediately leaves.

Frank calls the police and wants Chloe charged with trespass. While she meets the other elements of the offense, she did not commit the offense knowingly. In fact, she mistakenly believed she was at an address at which she had permission to be. Chloe cannot be charged with third-degree trespass.

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

For purposes of CRS 18-4-504, 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: Phoebe and Ross are neighbors and they don't get along very well. One day, Ross comes onto Phoebe's unfenced front yard to yell at her about the noise coming from the house. Phoebe orders Ross to get off of her lawn, but he refuses. Ross could be charged with third-trespass.

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

What makes third-degree trespass different from second-degree trespass is the fact that the premises do not have to 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 stays 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.

4.1 What is the definition of "premises" under Colorado law?

Under Colorado law, "premises" means:

  • real property,
  • buildings,
  • other improvements thereon, and
  • the stream banks and beds of any non-navigable freshwater streams flowing through such real property.5

5. What are the penalties for third-degree trespass in Colorado?

Third-degree criminal trespass is a usually a Colorado class 1 petty offense. Consequences of trespass as a petty offense can include:

  • up to 6 months in jail; and/or
  • a fine of up to $500.

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

  • up to 6 months in jail; and/or
  • a fine of $50-$750.

If a person trespasses 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.

6. What defenses can I raise?

To defend against a third-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; or
  • the prosecutor did not prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
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For questions about third-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 18-4-504.
  2. CRS 18-4-503.
  3. See CRS 18-1-501(6).
  4. Same as 1.
  5. CRS 18-4-504.5 (Definition of premises).

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