Trespass

Definition

Trespass is defined by the act of knowingly entering another person’s property without permission.

Overview

For the definition of trespass, the "knowingly entering" requirement refers to the actor's knowledge of the literal act of entering property. It does not matter whether the actor actually knows the property belongs to someone else.

Trespass exists in both tort law and criminal law. 

Tort Law

Under tort law, a property owner may bring a civil lawsuit against a trespasser in order to recover actual damages or receive compensatory relief for injury suffered as a direct result of a trespass.

In a tort action, the plaintiff must prove that the offender had, but knowingly violated, a legal duty to respect another person’s right to property, which resulted in direct injury or loss to the plaintiff.

Criminal Law

In tort law, trespass is held to infringe upon a property owner’s legal right to enjoy the benefits of ownership. Criminal charges, which range from violation to felony, may be brought against someone who interferes with another person’s legal property rights. 

Further Reading

For more on trespass, see this Columbia Law Review article, this Northwestern University Law Review article, and this  Florida Law Review Forum article