According to Tennessee law, any person who unlawfully enters the property of another may be guilty of trespassing. The penalties for this offense vary depending on whether the trespass was civil or criminal. If the accused person uses force to enter the property and has knowledge that the owner has not consented to the entry, the trespass is criminal. If the property is entered without force the trespass is civil. Any person who commits a civil trespass may be sued for monetary damages, but they will not face criminal charges. Criminal trespassing, however, may result in criminal charges against the offender.
How do you know when you don’t have the owner’s effective consent? Tennessee statutes list a variety of ways that knowledge of the owner’s consent may be given or implied. A communication from the owner can give knowledge of the owner’s consent or lack of consent. A fence or enclosure around the property can convey the owner’s lack of effective consent. Any obviously visible sign can also convey the owner’s lack of effective consent. Tenn. Code Ann. 39-14-405 (2006). Additionally, an owner can convey his lack of consent by posting signs approved by the wildlife resources agency that state “Hunting by Written Permission Only”. These signs must also show the name of the owner and be accompanied by florescent visual markings around the perimeter of the property. Tenn. Code Ann. 70-4-106 (2006).
Criminal trespass is a Class C Misdemeanor and can be punished by a fine or a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. Tenn. Code Ann. 40-35-111 (2006). Criminal trespass charges, like any criminal charges, can profoundly impact you and your family. When dealing with criminal charges, it is important to find an experienced and effective Tennessee attorney, who can help find the best resolution for you and your family.