Trespassing: Understanding Property Rights

In this essay I am going to explain why and what trespassing is and the legal and moral consequences of trespassing and what property rights are. Most importantly, I am going to tell you why I should respect the property rights of others. “Trespassing” is a legal term that can refer to a wide variety of offenses against a person or against property. Technically, a person violates the law against trespassing by knowingly going onto someone else’s land without consent.

“Knowledge” may be inferred when the owner (or the owner’s representative) tells the trespasser not to go on the land when the land is fenced in a manner that suggests that intruders should stay out or there is a “no trespassing” sign in an obvious place. A trespasser will probably not be prosecuted if the land was open to the public when the trespasser originally entered the land and the trespasser’s conduct did not substantially interfere with the owner’s use of the property and the trespasser left on request. Violating this law is a Class C misdemeanor.

The more serious crime of “aggravated criminal trespass” combines trespassing with conduct that would cause fear for someone’s safety. This is a Class B misdemeanor. If the “aggravated criminal trespass” is committed in a house or a hospital or a school, it is a Class A misdemeanor. One word of caution: sometimes posting a “no trespassing” sign can backfire. Because the “adverse possession” rules are so complicated, posting a “no trespassing” sign can actually help a trespasser support a claim to the owner’s property.

One common form of trespassing is when a neighbor’s driveway or fence encroaches onto someone else’s land. Sometimes the owner will not want to make an issue of the encroachment–either because it seems to be a minor problem or because the neighbor is a friend. To avoid problems later, however, the owner should give the “trespasser” written permission to keep the encroachment for as long as the owner continues to authorize it. If properly handled, this document will prevent the trespasser from acquiring a right to continue the encroachment and from passing along this right to future owners of the trespasser’s land.

If a trespasser drives or parks a motor vehicle (including a motorcycle or ATV) on private property reserved for customers or employees of a business and refuses to leave when asked, the trespasser has committed a Class C misdemeanor. This rule applies regardless of whether the business posted a sign warning against trespassing. Regardless of whether a crime has been committed, a property owner can resort to the law to prevent trespassing.

If someone makes a habit of trespassing, the property owner may ask the court to order the trespasser to get off the property and to stay off. If the trespasser causes damage to the owner’s property, the owner may also sue for damages. In Florida, trespassing with burglar tools with intent to use them is a third degree felony. This is what I was charged with. On May 2, 2008, I was caught on someone else’s property with a cordless drill. It was the property of some people that lived out of state and only came here on weekends and holidays.

My family knew them enough to say hi to and they seemed like nice people. There was a fence on the property that I went on and I knew that it was someone else’s land and therefore I should have respected their privacy. Anyway, a neighbor that kind of watched their property saw me and called the cops. It was not a good position to be in or a position that I ever should have been in. It was disrespectful to the owners and they are definitely shook up about it. The second I got caught I regretted it but not so much that I got caught but that I did what I did.

It seemed so innocent when I thought about doing it but when I was faced with the reality of it, I couldn’t believe what I had done. Now our next door neighbors hate our family and say that they don’t even feel comfortable leaving their dog outside. They must think I would harm the dog. It is not only embarrassing to me but my whole family. I’m sure they have told other neighbors about it. One reason you should stay off people’s property is it’s disrespectful. I don’t like it when people I don’t want on my property are on it so why would anyone else like it done to them.

I would have probably hit the person who was on my property with a cordless drill. Another reason is that the law says that people need to have their property rights protected. I violated the Harwell’s property rights and I understand that that is the reason that I’m on probation. “Property Rights“;They are the most basic of all our rights. How we look at property rights is a most basic foundation of our liberty. When you have a proper respect for property rights, environmental concerns go away because they are automatically taken care of.

For example in a society that respects the property of others, it is cause for legal action if someone pollutes your land, or the water coming across your property, or the air which floats above it, so of course it is also cause for legal action if someone is on your property without your permission. With a respect for private property, people can and should be allowed to do whatever they would like with their land – barring any restrictions they agreed to when they purchased the land – up until the point that their actions physically affect their neighbors.

For the degree of freedom we enjoy on our own property – whether it is a thousand-acre farm or a single-family dwelling lot in a town or city – is a strong measure of the liberty in a society. Our respect for private property goes to the root of our other freedoms: freedom of speech, of religion, to own weapons, to gather peaceably, and so forth. Freedom only exists where there is complete respect for rights of property ownership. When we go to another person’s land, or home, or business, we should expect to be bound by their rules of conduct. And they should be free to protect their property and family as they see fit.

By me trespassing on the Harwell’s property with a drill was not only a violation of their right to freedom but a danger to both of us. They could have been home and thought that I was going to do them harm with the drill. They could have shot me to protect themselves and it wouldn’t have been their fault. So now here I am on summer vacation and I work until 3:30 pm and I have to be in the house at 6:00 pm. My money that I was saving for a car is now going to pay court costs. My grandparents are having to pay a dollar a day for every day that I am on probation which for now is until I’m nineteen (I’m only fifteen).

The little time I have will be spent doing community service which means I will work all day at my job and on my day off I will work somewhere for no pay. I have definitely learned that violating someone else’s freedom of privacy is something I will never do again. Our freedoms and liberties are only as secure as our property rights. This was the underlying assumption of our Founding Fathers, and a foundation we are in danger of cracking. Without a firm respect for property ownership, all our other rights are only talk.