Massachusetts Criminal Trespass Laws

It's perfectly legal to enter someone's property under many circumstances. For instance, requesting charitable donations or dropping off political literature are generally acceptable reasons for the public to set foot on private property. However, there are times when being on another's property is unlawful such as going beyond the scope of consent and remaining on the property past the permitted stay.

These situations represent the offense of trespass. If committed in Massachusetts, you face not only civil liability but you may also be charged with criminal trespass.

Notice Requirements

To impose Massachusetts' general criminal trespass statute, a property owner or someone with "legal control" of the property must provide proper notice to a potential trespasser that they are prohibited from entering the premises.

Notice can be given by posting "No trespassing" signs, telling the person that entrance is forbidden, or informing them in writing with a "No trespass" letter. In addition to serving the person with the "No trespass" notice, an owner often sends a copy to the local police so that the prohibited person can be promptly arrested if they enter the property.

Massachusetts Criminal Trespass Laws Summary

Because of the way that statutes are written, it can be difficult to read them in full. However, you can still get to the nature of the law by reading a condensed version of the text written in plain language. The chart below provides an example of this with a summary of criminal trespass laws in Massachusetts.

Statutes

Massachusetts General Laws:

Elements of the Crime

 

General criminal trespass:

  • An individual commits an act of trespass if they enter or remain in or on another's dwelling, house, building, boat, wharf, or pier without any legal authority.
  • Penalty: Maximum fine of $100 and/or incarceration up to 30 days.

Trespass of garden/orchard:

  • An individual enters someone's garden, orchard, or nursery and destroys trees, plants or steals flowers, fruits.
  • Penalty: Maximum fine of $500 and/or 6 months in jail

Vehicle trespass:

  • An individual enters another's property by using a vehicle
  • Penalty: Fine not to exceed 250

Public property trespass:

  • An individual enters or remains on state land and public institutions
  • Penalty: Up to 3 months in jail, fines up to $50

Domestic animals trespass:

  • Anyone who has control of domestic animals (cattle, goats, sheep, horses) who allows the animals to enter/graze on another's land
  • Penalty: Maximum $10 fine

 

Possible Defenses

  • Owner's consent
  • Necessity
  • Legal right to be on the property

Related Offenses

Massachusetts General Laws:

 

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Criminal Trespass Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Criminal Trespass with a Massachusetts Attorney

Criminal trespass laws in Massachusetts govern very minor offenses. However, it's common for trespassing to accompany other more serious violations such as vandalism, theft, or domestic violence crimes. In those scenarios, it's even more critical to talk to an attorney about your case. Get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney right away to learn more.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.