Aggravated Criminal Trespass Lawyer in Maine
Serving the Areas of Portland, Bangor, Saco, Biddeford and Augusta
Elsewhere on our website, we've discussed what trespassing is, what the penalties are, if you get convicted for it, and how to tell if you're trespassing on someone else's property. However, in addition to Maine's criminal trespass laws, our state also has an additional trespassing law, called aggravated criminal trespass. This law recognizes that some acts of trespassing are relatively benign, and barely hurt anyone – like walking past a “No Trespassing” sign on a 140 acre farm and wandering around the corn fields – but that others can be considered more serious.
In Maine, aggravated criminal trespassing is when you:
- Enter someone's "dwelling place,"
- Without permission or privilege,
- And either:
- Commit a crime from Chapter 9 or Chapter 11 of Maine's criminal code, or
- Have two prior convictions for burglary or aggravated criminal trespass.
Let's delve into each of these elements in detail.
Entering someone's "dwelling place"
This is the first requirement that can turn an act of normal trespassing into one of aggravated criminal trespassing. The reason is fairly clear: Walking uninvited into someone else's house is viewed as a major violation of privacy, and is something that rarely happens on accident, so the state of Maine has decided that there should be higher penalties if it does happen.
Importantly, Maine's aggravated criminal trespass law uses the word “dwelling place.” Elsewhere in Maine's criminal code, a “dwelling place” is defined as:
“a structure that is adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or sections of any structure similarly adapted. A dwelling place does not include garages or other structures, whether adjacent or attached to the dwelling place, that are used solely for the storage of property or structures formerly used as dwelling places that are uninhabitable. It is immaterial whether a person is actually present.”
This long, legal-sounding definition seems like a 63-word way of saying the word “house.” However, there are certain differences between this definition of “dwelling place” and “house” that can make the difference between facing a charge of aggravated or normal criminal trespass. For example, a building that has been condemned, or an attached garage.
Without Permission or Privilege
Permission and privilege are often subtly difficult ideas, especially in the eyes of the law. Examples of people that have a privilege to visit are firefighters or postal workers, when they're on the job. The reasoning is simple: If either of these workers had to ask for permission to come onto your property every time they needed to visit, you wouldn't get your mail, and your house will have burned down.
Permission is often much harder to determine. People rarely tell each other, “You are allowed to visit my dwelling place.” Instead, people often try to figure it out, depending on social clues and context. Unfortunately, people make mistakes, especially in these kinds of situations.
Commit a Crime from Chapter 9 or 11 of Maine's Criminal Code
To be convicted for aggravated criminal trespass, you need to enter a “dwelling place,” and do so without permission or privilege. Additionally, you need to either commit a certain type crime while in the “dwelling place,” or you need to have enough prior offenses in your criminal history.
The crimes that can turn a regular trespass conviction into an aggravated trespass conviction are found in Chapter 9 and in Chapter 11 of Maine's criminal code.
Chapter 9 crimes are “offenses against the person.” These include:
- Stalking, and
- Reckless conduct.
Chapter 11 crimes are sex crimes, including:
- Sexual assault,
- Abuse of minors, and
- Sexual contact.
Entering another person's “dwelling place” and committing any of these crimes will turn a trespass charge into an aggravated criminal trespass charge.
Have Two Prior Convictions
Even if you don't commit one of these crimes, if you have two or more prior offenses for burglary or aggravated criminal trespass in the past, any normal trespassing charge turns into one for aggravated criminal trespassing.
Aggravated criminal trespassing is a Class C felony crime. This means that it comes with maximum penalties of five years in jail, and $5,000 in fines.
How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
A criminal defense attorney has lots of ways to defend against a charge for aggravated criminal trespass. All of the elements that we discussed above are up to the prosecutor to prove in trial, to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt. Regardless of what you may have heard from others in the criminal system, this is not a low standard for the prosecutor to reach. Solid criminal defense attorneys know how to prevent prosecutors from meeting that standard, through challenging the prosecutor's facts and evidence, and by arguing that the prosecutor's case does not satisfy what the law requires for a conviction.
When it comes to aggravated criminal trespass, examples of what a criminal defense attorney would argue would be that the trespass did not occur in someone's “dwelling place,” or that no additional crime was committed that would turn the charge from trespassing to aggravated trespassing. Whether you had permission to be on the property is another example.
These are just a small sample of the specific ways that criminal defense attorneys would fight a charge for aggravated criminal trespassing. There are also all of the methods and techniques that defense lawyers use to defend people against all sorts of criminal charges. These include challenging and impeaching witnesses, using prior statements to damage their credibility, attacking the foundation of the prosecutor's evidence, and using the hearsay rule.
Attorney William T. Bly is regarded as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the state of Maine. By using these criminal defense methods, as well as others that he has learned, honed, and perfected over years of experience and countless trials, he has accumulated an impressive track record of successfully defending clients against a wide variety of criminal charges. Call him at his law office, if you're facing charges for aggravated criminal trespass: (207) 571-8146.