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Trespass, Defense, Charges

Defending Trespass Charges in Indiana: A Comprehensive Guide

If you have been recently arrested or charged with criminal trespass in Indiana, understanding the law, potential penalties, and possible defenses is crucial. This blog provides a detailed overview of the trespass statute, discusses relevant case law, and offers practical advice for those facing trespass charges. 

Understanding the Trespass Statute 

Under Indiana Code 35-43-2-2, criminal trespass encompasses various forms of unauthorized entry and interference with property. Here are some key points: 

  1. Unauthorized Entry: Entering real property after being denied entry by the owner or their agent.
  2. Refusal to Leave: Remaining on property after being asked to leave.
  3. Unauthorized Use of Vehicles: Accompanying someone who exerts unauthorized control over a vehicle.
  4. Interference with Property: Interfering with the possession or use of another person's property.
  5. Special Cases: Entering agricultural operations, scientific research facilities, or dwellings without consent; traveling on trains without authorization; and entering properties designated as vacant, abandoned, or unsafe without permission. 

The statute also defines penalties based on the severity and circumstances of the offense: 

Relevant Case Law 

Case law in Indiana provides valuable insights into defending against trespass charges. Below are summaries of several cases where the Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence to support a conviction. For privacy, the names of the individuals involved are not used. 

Case 1: Contractual Interest in School Premises 

In this case, a defendant was enrolled in a summer school program located on the property of a private organization. The defendant went to the school to collect his compensation for attending classes. When he did not receive his check, he was asked to leave the premises and subsequently arrested for criminal trespass. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, noting that the defendant had a contractual interest in the property as part of the program. The state failed to prove that this interest was terminated before his arrest. 

Case 2: Permission to Collect Belongings from Father's Residence 

A defendant lived with his father in an apartment complex. He received a no-trespass notice but was told he had 48 hours to remove his belongings. While collecting his items, the police were called, and he was arrested for trespassing. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, noting that the defendant had a reasonable belief that he had 48 hours to remain on the premises to collect his belongings. There was no evidence he was told to leave immediately or that he refused to leave. 

Case 3: Living Arrangement and Contractual Interest 

In another case, a defendant moved into a residence after agreeing with the homeowner that she would live there in exchange for rent and/or childcare services. After an argument, the homeowner asked her to leave, but she refused, claiming she lived there. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, stating that the defendant had a contractual interest in the property based on their agreement, and the state failed to disprove this interest beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Case 4: Officer's Insufficient Evidence of Trespass 

A defendant was escorted out of a bar by a bouncer and told by an off-duty officer to leave the premises. The Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence to support the trespass conviction because the state failed to prove that the defendant was on the bar's property when the officer asked him to leave. The officer's testimony did not specify where the defendant was standing when told to leave, and there was no indication that the defendant attempted to re-enter the bar. 

Possible Defenses 

If you are facing trespass charges in Indiana, there are several defenses that an experienced attorney can explore: 

  1. Lack of Intent: Demonstrating that you did not knowingly or intentionally enter or remain on the property without authorization.
  2. Permission Granted: Proving that you had permission to be on the property, either explicitly or implicitly.
  3. Reasonable Belief: Arguing that you reasonably believed you had the right to be on the property, as seen in the case where the defendant was given 48 hours to collect belongings.
  4. Contractual Interest: Showing that you had a contractual interest in the property, such as being part of a program that allowed access to the premises.
  5. Insufficient Notice: Showing that proper notice denying entry was not given, as required by the statute. 

Practical Advice 

Navigating trespass charges can be complex, but taking the following steps can help strengthen your defense: 

  1. Consult an Experienced Attorney: Legal expertise is crucial for understanding your rights and building a strong defense.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect any documentation or witness statements that support your case, such as proof of permission to be on the property.
  3. Understand the Law: Familiarize yourself with the specifics of Indiana’s trespass statute and relevant case law.
  4. Prepare for Court: Work with your attorney to develop a compelling argument for your defense, addressing any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. 

Conclusion 

Facing trespass charges in Indiana requires a thorough understanding of the law and potential defenses. By consulting with an experienced attorney and preparing your case diligently, you can improve your chances of a favorable outcome. 

Summary: 

Contact Gibson Law Office today for a free consultation and expert legal advice on defending trespass charges in Indiana.