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Trespassing Laws in Virginia

Virginia Trespassing Basics

In Virginia, a trespassing violation is criminal in nature and may arise after one has received notice not to remain on the premises or to not return.

How can one receive this notification? Here are a few possibilities:

  • An oral request
  • A written request
  • A posted sign

The Virginia trespassing law is intended by the legislature to protect rights of people with lawful control of property.

Seriousness of the Offense

Trespassing is considered a "Crime Against Habitation." Other crimes against habitation include burglary, arson, and spying. Since it is a criminal offense, it should be taken seriously. (As a Class 1 misdemeanor, it could result in thousands in fines and 12 months confinement). But it is far more serious if one is alleged to have entered the premises with the intent to cause damage. In such a case, it may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. There are enhanced penalties if the intent to enter and cause damage is based upon racial or religious motivation. There could even be mandatory active jail time (cannot be suspended).

Virginia Trespassing Pointers

To be convicted, the defendant must have acted willfully. It may be a defense if the defendant was acting under a "bona fide claim of right." Or, if the property in question is actually a public thoroughfare.

Other trespassing-related offenses include the posting of a sign on another person's property, allowing an animal to roam, and encouraging another person to trespass.

Always take a trespassing violation or charge seriously and talk to a lawyer in Virginia, because it will remain on an adult's criminal record forever. If found guilty, there will be virtually no way to expunge the record. Regardless of the disposition, the mere charge will remain on the adult's record forever, and should lead the accused individual to seek expungement. Our Fairfax criminal lawyer has recently published an expungement page for those who have previously been charged in Virginia, where they can find answers to frequently asked questions.

Additional resources provided by the author

Virginia Code 18.2-119
Virginia Code 18.2-119.1
Virginia Code 18.2-121
Virginia Code 18.2-120

Hall v. Commonwealth, 188 Va. 72, 49 S.E.2d 369 (1948)
Reed v. Commonwealth, 6 Va. App. 65, 366 S.E.2d, 274 (1988).

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