Tennessee Criminal Trespassing Laws

States throughout the U.S., including Tennessee, make it illegal to go on other people's property without permission and to stay on their property after being told to leave. Usually in order to be guilty of criminal trespass, there must be some intent, meaning that accidentally going on another person's property isn't a punishable offense. In Tennessee, it's a defense to prosecution under the criminal trespass statute if a person:

  • entered or remained on property they reasonably believed they had the owner's consent to enter;
  • didn't substantially interfere with the owner's use of the property; and
  • immediately left upon request.

This defense can't be used when the property owner posts visible signs indicating that unauthorized people are prohibited from entering the property.

An Overview of Tennessee Criminal Trespassing Laws

Statutes are a good source of information when you're looking for an answer to a legal question. Unfortunately statutes are usually written in legal language that can take time to understand. For this reason, it's helpful to read a summary highlighting important areas of a law. The following chart provides a brief overview of criminal trespassing laws in Tennessee as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s)

Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 4:

Defining the Offense

Criminal trespass occurs when a person enters or remains on property without the owner's consent. Consent may be inferred when property is used for commercial activity open to the public or when a property owner has indicated their intent to have the property open to the public.

Aggravated criminal trespass occurs when a person enters or remains on someone's property and one of the following conditions are present:

  • The person knows that they don't have the property owner's consent to do so and intends, knows, or is reckless about whether their presence will cause someone else to fear for their safety; or
  • The person destroys, alters, vandalizes, or removes a barrier designed to prevent trespassers from entering the property (i.e. a fence, gate, lock, sign, chain) to gain entry.

Trespass by motor vehicle occurs when a person drives, parks, or otherwise operates a motor vehicle through or within a parking area or roadway that's located on private property that's used by patrons, customers or employees of business establishments on that property after being told to leave or stop doing one of the activities mentioned.

Charges

Criminal trespass and trespass by motor vehicle are Class C misdemeanors.

Aggravated criminal trespass is a Class A misdemeanor if committed in a habitation, hospital, or at a public or private school, and a Class B misdemeanor if committed anywhere else.

Penalties

The authorized penalties for misdemeanors are as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor: up to 11 months, 29 days and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: not more than 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Class C Misdemeanor: not more than 30 days in jail* and a $50 fine.

*the trespass by motor vehicle statute doesn't permit incarceration.

Related Statute(s)

Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 4:

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.

Tennessee Criminal Trespassing Laws: Related Resources

Charged with Criminal Trespassing in Tennessee? Talk to a Lawyer

Even though Tennessee classifies criminal trespassing as a misdemeanor, a conviction can still result in imprisonment. What's more, it'll result in a criminal record that can have a lasting impact on your life, especially professionally. If you've been charged with violating Tennessee criminal trespass laws, or any other related laws, it's a good idea to get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your case and weigh your options moving forward.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.