People charged with trespassing often dismiss the offense as a minor crime or a petty crime. However, the trespassing laws in Maryland can have serious repercussions for violators. Entering someone’s land without permission can land you in jail for as long as three months for a first offense.
Maryland has wide a range of trespassing violations. However, they carry the same penalties on conviction under Section 6-402 – up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for a first offense. Trespassers face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if the offense is repeated within 24 months of the initial crime.
Don’t make the mistake of taking the trespassing laws in Maryland lightly. You should talk to an experienced Baltimore trespassing defense attorney as soon as possible if you are charged with this crime.
What Are the Elements of the Trespassing Laws in Maryland?
People who enter private property commit an offense if the land or building is “posted conspicuously against trespass” by signs that are placed where they can reasonably be seen.
Paint marks can also fulfill the signage requirement if they comply with the Department of Natural Resources requirements and appear on trees or posts at each road access to the property. The markings can also be next to public roadways, public waterways, and other land adjoining the private property.
Maryland sets out some really specific requirements for paint markings. They must be vertical lines at least 2 inches wide and at least 8 inches tall. They must be at least 3 feet from the ground or a water surface but not more than 6 feet from the ground.
Does a Property Have to Be Posted to Violate Trespassing Laws in Maryland?
No. You can be charged with trespassing if you were told to stay off land by the landowner or an agent of the owner. Wanton trespass on private property in Maryland is outlined in CL § 6-403.
Wanton is defined under Maryland law as meaning with recklessness or utter disregard towards the rights of the landowner. This means the defendant must know he or she was not allowed on the land. People who believe they have a right to be on the land are unlikely to be charged with wanton trespass. A hiker or a hunter who strays onto private property or someone who incorrectly believes they were invited onto the property should not be charged with wanton trespass.
Can Police Act as Agents for Landowners Under the Trespassing Laws in Maryland?
It’s not uncommon to see signs that say police are authorized to act as an agent of the landowner in Maryland. If a police officer warns you against trespassing you can be charged with wanton trespass if you continue to go onto the land. Police often act as agents for private venues like casinos that ban unruly people or stores that ban shoplifters.
Does a Trespassing Warning Expire in Maryland?
When a landowner or an agent tells you to stay out of a property, the warning does not expire unless an express termination date for the warning is given. You may be arrested many years later unless the warning is revoked.
Can You Be Charged with Trespassing if the Warning was Not Given by the Owner or an Agent?
People charged with trespassing have a possible defense if the warning was not given by a person with the power to give it. If you stray onto private land and a passer-by tells you it’s private property and you should not be there, the third party’s comments do not constitute a formal warning.
Do The Trespassing Laws in Maryland Include Vehicles?
It’s illegal for the operators of off-road vehicles to drive onto private property unless they are on a designated driveway and have written consent from the owner or a tenant. The law relating to the use of a vehicle on private property does not apply to a boat, a military, fire, or police vehicle. The Maryland law also makes an exception for agricultural vehicles, construction vehicles being used on building projects, and lawnmowers, snowblowers and golf carts used for their intended purposes.
People who operate off-road vehicles on public property owned by the state, counties, or military authorities can also face a trespassing charge backed up by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of no more than $500.
Is There a Specific Law in Maryland for Trespassing on Cultivated Land?
Under Maryland Criminal Law Article 6-406 trespassing on cultivated land in the absence of permission from the owner or an agent is prohibited. Cultivated land is land that has been cleared of its natural vegetation and contains crops or orchards. The law makes an exception for farm workers invited on the property and people who have ownership rights to the land.
How You Can Defend Yourself Against Trespassing Laws in Maryland
There are many potential defenses to trespassing. Often posted signs lack clarity in their message or the signs are hidden.
Warnings given by landowners or their agents can be ambiguous and it’s not always clear if the person who gives a warning has the authority to do so. Police have even charged people with ownership rights in land property with trespassing.
We often see this in complicated cases where ownership is in dispute. In some cases, coercion is a factor. For example, a passenger in a car whose driver goes onto private property without their permission can argue they were coerced.
Maryland’s trespassing laws are a bunt instrument. People are habitually wrongly charged with trespass. An experienced Baltimore, Maryland criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the proper defenses to trespassing charges.
What To Do if You Violate the Trespassing Laws in Maryland
It’s important to act quickly if you have been charged with trespassing. A defense lawyer can research many potential defenses to trespass in Maryland that you may not have thought of.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Baltimore-based defense team has defended many people hit with trespassing charges. Find out your rights as soon as possible. Please contact us today for a consultation.