Every state, including Washington, has laws making it illegal to go on someone else's property without permission. Criminal trespass laws usually also prohibit staying on property after being asked to leave. Generally, to be convicted of criminal trespass, a person must knowingly or intentionally go on someone else's property; this means accidentally wandering onto someone else's property is generally not a punishable offense.
Washington Criminal Trespassing Laws: Overview
There's no doubt that it's important to read the actual language in a statute when looking for an answer to a legal question. Unfortunately, laws often are written in "legalese" that most people don't have the time to interpret. For this reason, it's often helpful to read a summary of the laws without the legal jargon. The chart that follows provides links to relevant statutes as well as an overview of Washington criminal trespassing laws.
Washington Revised Code:
Criminal trespass in the first degree: To knowingly enter or remain unlawfully in a building.
Criminal trespass in the second degree: To knowingly enter or stay unlawfully in or on someone else's property in a way that doesn't constitute first degree criminal trespass.
|Charges and Penalties
Criminal trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Criminal trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
The following are defenses in a criminal trespass prosecution:
- The building was abandoned;
- The property was open to the public and the defendant complied with the conditions imposed on people entering or staying on the property;
- The defendant reasonably believed that the owner (or other authorized person) of the property would have allowed them to enter or stay on the property; or
- The defendant was trying to serve legal process, but only if the defendant entered a building open to the public and the entry was reasonable and necessary.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Washington Criminal Trespassing Laws: Related Resources
Get Legal Help with Your Criminal Trespassing Case in Washington
Although criminal trespass is a misdemeanor in Washington, a conviction can still land you in jail. So, if you've been charged under Washington criminal trespassing laws, it's in your best interest to reach out to a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and to get a strong advocate to argue in your defense.