After purchasing their dream home, a Georgia couple found themselves fighting to keep a squatter out. The squatter claimed he had rights to the house, even changing the locks on the couple at one time. Ultimately, the man was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and making false statements, much to the relief of the homeowners and neighbors.
What is Criminal Trespassing?
At first glance, trespassing seems like an obvious crime, but criminal trespass is not simply entering someone’s property without permission. In fact, any of the following are deemed criminal trespass under Georgia law:
- Intentionally damaging property without permission with damages of $500 or less.
- Interfering with the possession or use of property without consent.
- Entering land, vehicle, etc. of another person for any unlawful reason.
- Entering land, vehicle, etc. of another person after being told such entry is not allowed.
- Staying on the land or in the vehicle of another person after being told to leave.
- Intentionally defacing, mutilating, or defiling the grave, monument, or memorial of any service member if ownership is private or it is located on private property.
It is important to note that permission to enter land can only be given by the owner or an authorized representative of the owner. Permission granted by a minor can not override any previous statements of the minor’s parents or guardians regarding permissions to access the property.
Criminal trespass does also require intentionality on the part of or previous warnings made to the defendant. Criminal trespass can not be charged if the defendant accidentally entered another’s land, for example.
Sentencing for Criminal Trespass
Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor under Georgia law. If convicted, any misdemeanor committed in Georgia is punishable by one of the following options:
- Fine up to $1,000 and/or a maximum of 12 months in the county jail
- Maximum of 12 months in a state probation detention center
- Maximum of 12 months in a state correctional institution if the defendant is already an inmate
However, these sentences are not mandatory. Instead, Georgia code gives a large amount of discretionary power to the judge, who may suspend or probate the sentence as he or she sees fit. This can also include community service, rather than fines or jail time. What is more, if the jail sentence is six months or less, the judge may allow time to be served on weekends or during other non-working hours.
In short, unless the defendant is already an inmate or has committed other crimes at the same time, misdemeanor criminal trespass has a wide variety of flexible sentencing options, making it even more important to hire the best legal representation. This is true whether you are the defendant or the plaintiff.
How a Criminal Attorney can Help
Because Georgia laws allow the judge so much discretion in misdemeanor sentencing, it is absolutely essential that you have the best possible representation at your side. The attorneys at Lankford & Moore Law can help to ensure a fair and reasonable outcome in your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.