Those to Trespass Against Us…

I have a business … which has a gate around almost all of it. On one end there is an opening that cars have been coming through, to spin donuts on our ball field in back. So I put up a barricade to try to stop this, and they just moved it, or found a way to drive around. So I put up no trespass signs, and put the barricade. But this time I put spike strips down to stop them before they started. A young guy came through the barricade in a big truck and run over the spikes and got four flat tires, and now wants to sue me for the tires. Should I pay him, or take him to court?
Interesting question with no simple answer.  While a property owner has the right to exclude others from his property and even use reasonable force to prevent someone from entering his property, in general you cannot set traps to catch trespassers.  The court might find that the spike strips (with no warning that they were present) were a trap.  That means you would be responsible for the damage to the tires.  Think about it this way: a landowner might decide to put up an electrified fence to keep out trespassers, but if the fence was not marked with signs, the owner might be liable for injuries to someone touching the fence.
By trespassing the driver was also breaking the law.  He could be prosecuted for trespassing and you could sue him in civil court.  However in a lawsuit for trespass you would only be entitled to nominal damges ($1 or so) unless you could show actual injury to your property.
I think right is on your side, but the law favors the trespasser.  So if I were the judge for your case I would rule that you had to pay for the damage to the tires, but unless the tires were brand new I would not hold you responsible for the full value of new tires.  I would rule that the trespasser owed you $5 for trespassing and I would order him not to enter your property in the future.
Remember though small claims court is about “rough justice.”  There is very little argument about the fine points of law.  A friend once told me that actual legal precedent carries about as much weight as a comic book in small claims court.  If I were you I would wait and see if he goes to the trouble to sue you.  Many people don’t bother.  If he does sue, counterclaim for trespass.  Then offer to pay for repair of his tires or the cost of used tires.
-LawGuy

Dumb actions but no dumb questions

I have a pretty dumb question about something I’d hate to admit is scaring me out of my mind.
I was visiting a friend when we decided to go swimming around 3 a.m. Well, we went
dipping in a swimming pool belonging to apartments her boyfriend used to live in.
But the security guard spotted us as we were about to leave and contacted the police because
we did not have IDs. But after identification, when asked what he wanted to do with us,
the security guard requested that we be put under civilian arrest for trespassing.
So here we are, two 19 year olds cited for trespassing, wondering what will happen to us.
We are to appear in court next month, and we’re scared!! Isn’t trespassing a criminal offense?
If so what will happen to us, to our records? Is there a difference in penalties from a person
with no criminal background, and a person who does? Does the swimming pool need a
NO TRESPASSING, VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED sign? I mean, the gates were closed, and it says the pool hours in small print, so in other words it’s kind of obvious that we weren’t supposed to be there at that time. But even without that sign anywhere, are we still “eligible” for citation?
What will happen to us??
Trespassing is a criminal offense.
If you are convicted you will have a criminal record.
Anyone facing the criminal charges needs to have a lawyer.  The Supreme Court ruled years ago (in Gideon v. Wainwright) that a defense attorney was so critical to an accused rights, that the Constitution required a state to provide an attorney for those who cannot afford one.  It amazes me how many people will decide to represent themselves in something like a trespassing or marijuana possession case.  Later they find out that having a criminal record may affect employment, college admission and other activities.
Hire a lawyer.  Expect to pay a reasonable fee for the lawyers services.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, ask that one be appointed.  If you think it is expensive to hire a lawyer, check the expense of not having one.

 

Not So Nice Neighbors and No Trespassing Signs

We recently purchased 7 wooded acres of land and are building a new home.  I have posted No Trespassing/Private Property signs all over.  My not so nice neighbors took it upon themselves to remove the signs, bend them and toss them into my garage.  The house is still under construction.  I had a sheriff’s deputy assist me in putting new ones back up.  My reason for having the signs up is to protect myself against law suits from people entering the property and getting hurt or damaging my property.  Am I wrong in doing this?  This is becoming a major issue with the neighbors.  It is in the country and only 4 homes on the street.
You are free to post whatever kind of signs you choose on your property.  If your neighbor is tearing them down he is trespassing by removing the signs and also maliciously damaging your property, a misdemeanor.
I’m not sure the signs do much to keep someone from suing you if they get hurt while on your property, though.  They could help you establish that any uninvited person on your property was trespassing.
Your best option may be to talk things over with your neighbor. If he continues to remove your signs you would probably need to catch him in the act to prosecute.