Trespassing on School Grounds
In Florida all trespassing is a crime, but trespassing on school grounds is considered especially grave due to the potential danger it poses to children. For this reason, many innocent people are mistakenly accused and charged with trespassing. A criminal conviction can affect a person’s ability to obtain employment or housing, so if you or a loved one were charged with trespassing, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help protect your interests.Elements of Trespass
A person has committed the offense of trespass on school grounds if he or she entered or remained on the campus of a school or school facility and either:
Did not have any legitimate business on the campus or any other authorization, license, or invitation; or
Had been suspended or expelled at the time he or she entered the area.
A school is defined as the grounds or any facility, either public or private, of any kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, junior high school, or secondary school. If the property in question does not fall within the parameters of this definition, a person cannot be charged with this particular offense.Detention and Arrest
Law enforcement officers can arrest a person if he or she has probable cause to believe that the offender was trespassing on school grounds. The arrest may take place either on or off the premises and without a warrant. A school official with appropriate authority may also take the offender into custody until the arrival of a police officer, if he or she has probable cause to believe that the offender was trespassing. However, law enforcement must be notified immediately of the situation, and the accused may not be detained for an unreasonable amount of time.Penalties
The penalties for a charge of trespassing on school grounds depends on whether or not the accused had prior warning to refrain from accessing the school grounds. When no warning existed, the offense is considered a second degree misdemeanor , which is punishable by up to two months in jail and the payment of a $500 fine. However, if the defendant had warning before entering the property, the offense becomes a first degree misdemeanor, which could mean a one-year jail sentence, twelve months of probation, and a $1,000 fine.Defenses
There are a variety of legal defenses that a person accused of trespassing can raise, including that he or she:
- Was not within the boundaries of the school property;
- Had a legitimate purpose on the campus;
- Was not barred from the property;
- Was mistakenly identified;
- Had express or implied authorization to be present on the school grounds;
- Was not present on property that falls within the definition of a school; and
- Was inadequately or ambiguously warned to refrain from entering the property.
Trespassing on school property can have far-reaching legal consequences, so if you or your child were charged with this offense, it is important to retain the services of an experienced attorney who may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein, and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation.