Unfortunately, the law is not as forgiving as God when it comes to trespass laws.
Trespassing occurs when someone ignores a posted or verbal warning about entering private or public property without permission. If they damage that property or cause physical harm, criminal and civil trespass charges can be levied.
Ways to Trespass
Landlord and Tenant: Some people may not realize that you can be sued because you trespassed on property you own. How you ask? If you own a home that you rent to someone else, and you do not give him or her prior notice that you are entering the property, they can sue you for trespassing. However, as a landlord, you have to do repairs and inspect the property on occasion so you may have a defense against a trespass claim. A good rule of thumb is to put advance notice of inspections and other landlord related activity in the lease agreement.
Public Property (owned by a government or municipality): Parks are generally public but if there is an admission fee and you don’t pay it, you can be charged with trespassing.
Private Property (restaurant, museum, or private home): You are having dinner and drinks with friends, you get drunk and rowdy, the management can ask you to leave. Although rare, you can end up with a trespass charge if you refuse. You can even trespass at a museum. A museum you say? Yes, a museum. Even though a museum is a public place, trespassing is a common occurrence. You will see signs stating employees only, yet people go in. Loud and disruptive behavior is frowned upon. Michael Moore, Tour Program Coordinator at the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art said, “Once we had to strongly encourage a gentleman not to come back because he was being boisterous. It’s rare, but it does happen.” He went on to say people would usually comply without incident. There are also signs around the museum asking patrons not to touch the art. Some people ignore those signs. This is the quickest way to a civil trespassing charge. Michael said, “The museum is less concerned with people entering unauthorized areas or being loud and more concerned with the art being damaged. We will contact the police if someone keeps touching the art and have them removed from the premises.”
Journalist and Trespassing
One group of individuals who can get recurring trespass charges is journalist. Getting the story ahead of the competition is always first on the agenda. How that information is obtained can sometimes result in trespass charges. One of the most famous journalistic trespassing cases was Food Lion vs. ABC. Two ABC producers created fake identities and employment history to get unlimited access to Food Lion stores. While posing as employees, they filmed unsanitary conditions around the store. Then, the video footage was broadcast on national television. Food Lion sued ABC for fraud, trespassing and misrepresentation. Food Lion was not worried about the allegations levied by ABC but about the unethical tactics used by the ABC producers. Food Lion did not give permission for ABC to film in the open let alone secretly therefore, they were trespassing. The jury agreed and awarded Food Lion $5.5 million dollars, which was later reduced to two dollars by an appeals court. Trespass laws vary from state to state but one thing is clear, if you are told to vacate an establishment or habitation, you must comply.