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The Connection Between Trespassing, C.R.S. 18-4-502, 503, 504 and Farming?

Categories of Denver and Colorado Trespassing / Trespass

Trespassing or Trespass, C.R.S. 18-4-502, 18-4-503, and 18-4-504, is a criminal offense in Arapahoe and Jefferson County. The severity of this offense depends on many different factors, which can influence charges from a petty offense all the way up to a class 4 felony. Colorado lawmakers have divided the general crime of Trespass into three broad categories or degrees. Third Degree Criminal Trespassing is the least severe, First Degree Criminal Trespassing is the most severe. Within each of the Trespass classifications, specific circumstances determine which class of crime is charged and the resulting punishment if a person is convicted. Read more about Trespassing.

The Agricultural Distinction in Trespass and Trespassing Cases

One of those circumstances is whether the defendant is accused of Trespassing on land zoned as agriculture or non-agricultural. In other words, if little Billy breaks into a locked shed in Highlands Ranch, with the intention to commit a further felony, he will be charged by the Douglas County DA with Second Degree Criminal Trespassing, as a class 3 misdemeanor. See, C.R.S. 18-4-503(1)(a) and (2). But, if instead of committing his crime in the suburbs, Billy decides to do the same exact thing on a farm in Weld County, he will be charged with a class 4 felony. See C.R.S. 18-4-503(2)(b). It should be noted that little Billy may also be charged with whatever felony he was attempting to commit in addition to his Trespassing charge in both instances.

The Law Does not Always Make Sense

Every so often, I come across an oddity in the law for which I am embarrassed to ask the obvious question. Why? Why is the same crime committed on agricultural land considered more egregious than if committed in the suburbs? So far, I haven't been able to find someone who can give a good answer to that question. Yet the fact remains, whatever degree of Criminal Trespassing, if it is committed on agricultural land, it is charged at least one step higher than if it is committed on non-agricultural land.

Sometimes my clients ask me to argue the "why" questions in court. While I sympathize with my client's frustration, they need to know that trial courts are not where Colorado statutes are changed. Laws are made by elected legislators, who are influenced by large interest groups promising votes and election money so long as the elected official does what they want. I suspect the severity of Trespassing on Agricultural land has something to do with that same principle.

If you are arrested for Trespassing, it is worth your time to talk with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney at the O'Malley Law Office. Any conviction, even for a petty offense, can have negative lifelong consequences. We also urge you not to argue your case to the arresting Denver police officer or an Adams County Sheriff Deputy. This is usually unproductive and will likely get you in more trouble. Your best course of action is to be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and call us at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

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