When Trespassing Can Be a Felony, Part 2: Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons
In a recent blog post, I detailed how trespassing on certain construction sites, agricultural sites and horticultural sites can be considered a felony under Florida’s laws. These are not, however, the only ways that trespassing charges can lead to a felony conviction in Florida’s courts. In certain situations, trespassing can also be considered a felony when dangerous weapons, such as firearms, are involved.
Florida’s statute on burglary and trespass states that a trespassing offense rises to the level of a third-degree felony “if the offender is armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon during the offense of trespassing on property other than a structure or conveyance.” (If you’re wondering what a “conveyance” is, Florida Statute 810.011(3) defines it as “any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.”) If you actually enter someone’s structure or conveyance with a firearm, then you’ll likely face more serious charges.What Constitutes Trespassing?
Based on what you read above, you might be wondering if you could end up as a convicted felon because you innocently wandered onto the wrong property while carrying a weapon. You can rest assured that the law isn’t intended for situations like that. Under the statute, the crime of trespassing on property other than structure or conveyance occurs when a person:
- Enters onto an unenclosed property, or remains on an unenclosed property, with the intention of committing a crime (other than trespassing) on that property; or
- Enters onto property, or remains on property, “as to which notice against entering or remaining is given.” This notice can be something visible (such as a fence, or a sign that says “private property”), or it can be an actual person warning you to get off of their property.
So unless you enter property that is obviously private, and/or you enter someone’s property and refuse to leave after being asked, you will not be found guilty of trespassing with a firearm.Being Taken into Custody by a Property Owner
One aspect of the law that you should be aware of is that if a property owner (or someone authorized by a property owner) reasonably believes that someone is trespassing on their property with a firearm or other dangerous weapon, they have a right to take the alleged trespasser into custody, and detain them.
You may be unfamiliar with the idea of anyone other than a law enforcement official taking someone into custody. But this is an example of a situation where someone who isn’t a civilian can legally take another person into custody (in the sense of holding them under guard or detaining them – not in the sense of taking them to a police station). However, the statute specifies that the property owner must call for a law enforcement officer as soon as is practicable, once the alleged trespasser is in their custody.The Importance of Legal Representation
If you or someone you know have been charged with any form of trespassing, or any crime involving firearms, it is important that you speak to a lawyer about their defense. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry has experience with these kinds of charges, and you can call his office today.