The civil side of trespassing

| Apr 26, 2019 | land use & zoning

Many readers of this blog know that trespassing is a crime. Trespassing generally occurs when someone intentionally enters the property of another person without that person’s permission. When a trespass is criminal, it may be prosecuted by the municipality where the crime was committed. When it is a civil matter, it may be pursued by the aggrieved land owner.

Civil trespass actions generally claim that a property owner has suffered damages as a result of the trespasser’s actions. For example, if a trespasser used a portion of the land owner’s property and destroyed trees in the area due to their conduct, the land owner may claim that they have been harmed by the costs of removing the damaged trees and the expenses of replacing them. A land owner may also seek relief to prevent the trespasser from returning to their land.

Like criminal trespass, certain elements must be present for civil trespass claims to be made. An alleged trespasser must first know that they are on someone else’s land; mistakes and honest errors generally do not amount to trespassing. Additionally, land owners did not give alleged trespassers permission to use their land, as such permission would undo the issue of consent in a legal claim.

Trespassers can cause damage and create problems for property owners when they wrongfully enter the land of others. Their actions can form the bases for both civil and criminal actions. When land owners elect to recover their damages from trespassers who have harmed them, they may solicit the help of land use attorneys to guide them through their legal pursuits.