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Georgia Criminal Trespass Law (O.C.G.A. 16-7-21) – How to Defend Against

The misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass in GA involves a perpetrator intentionally damaging someone else’s property, or after being asked to leave the property by the owner the person refuses. We see spouses charged with criminal trespassing in domestic violence cases where either the husband or the wife is told to get out of the house, and they either break something in anger on the way out, or refuse to leave at all.

Even though the person being asked to leave may own an antique table jointly with their spouse, if they destroy this heirloom the police can charge the person with criminal trespass. The value of the damaged items cannot exceed $500 – if it does then the more serious charge (including jail time) of criminal damage to property will be filed.

What Other Crimes Are Classified as Criminal Trespass in GA?

Beyond damaging another person’s property like land or a structure (house, barn, swimming pool) without permission, you can be charged with trespassing if you occupy someone’s home or boat or even their car and you were not given express permission to do so. Also, a minor child legally cannot grant access to their parent’s property to any adult, usually the mother or father. We see this in domestic assault situations where the son lets the dad back in the house to pick up a few things, and the mom comes home and asks her spouse to leave but he refuses.

A different example of criminal trespass is when someone defaces or damages any public monument, gravesite, or memorial that honors the military service of any deceased individual. For example, in the news recently you see stories of statues of American Civil War officers being smashed or knocked down by angry crowds.

Why Can’t I Legally Destroy My Own Property?

We have had clients who could not understand why they were arrested for criminal trespass when all they did was smash some windows in a house they owned. The reason is that a marital home is jointly owned by both wife and husband, so you are causing up to $500 in damage to property that your spouse half owns. Our criminal defense lawyers will ask very specific questions about what was damaged and who legally owns it. This includes when unauthorized people inhabit rental property, an RV, or a main residence and the prosecutor claims that the perpetrator holds an interest in said property.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Defends Against Criminal Trespass

One of the first ways to settle this serious legal matter is for the victim to drop trespass charges in exchange for the accused paying for all damages. Of course this option doesn’t apply when the case involves a spouse not leaving when asked. Having a client say, “I won’t do it again” will not resolve anything.

The Consent Defense (Permission Was Obtained Beforehand)

A criminal attorney in Atlanta will try to prove that their client had consent from their spouse to occupy a home even if only for an hour to gather up some clothes and personal items. Or a hunter obtained permission to hunt on the landowner’s property. Written consent is much more helpful to your case than verbal consent when you are standing in front of a judge in a municipal court or a state court.

Another proven defense your attorney can take is that you did not mean to damage a piece of property – it was an accident. For example, you were carrying a box of personal items to your car and you unintentionally knocked over and broke a valuable vase or painting. When you meet with one of our Atlanta attorneys try to remember everything that happened up to your arrest, and even after. The more details you give us the better we can build a solid defense.

A third way to create reasonable doubt is to prove that your client did not know it was illegal to hunt where they were. They did not see any No Trespassing signs or fences and they thought they were still on public land.

Trust the Criminal Trespass Lawyers at Kohn & Yager, LLC

Call today and ask to speak to attorney Cory Yager or attorney Larry Kohn about your pending case. Both attorneys have represented hundreds of clients accused of damaging another person’s property or occupying a dwelling without permission. You will be treated like family and we want to hear your side of the story. Your initial consultation is free even if it takes place at our law office in Sandy Springs, GA. Call us on the weekend and an attorney will call you back.

Client Reviews
Great lawyer helped me out a lot. Very attentive, made me feel comfortable and at ease!! Really knows his stuff - would use him anytime. M.L.
Mr. Larry Kohn could not have been more helpful. I sent him a message for a free consultation, and unfortunately my case had to be handled in another state. But he completely walked me through everything I needed to do, and even offered to assist the lawyer I did find in Virginia should they need help with my case. Jamie V.
Mr. Kohn is just amazing. He is truthful and realistic when explaining potential outcomes of your case and doesn’t force you to hire him or anything. When I met him, he went through everything about the case and ways to fight it off first before even telling me about his services. He got my case dismissed and kept me out of a lot of potential problems with school applications and future job opportunities. I highly recommend him to anyone. Anurag G.