Virginia takes trespassing seriously. As a coastal state with miles of farmland, we have a number of statutes addressing trespassing on all kinds of property.
We’re going to look at just a few key statutes here.
Signage isn’t always required
People often believe that if there isn’t a “No Trespassing” sign on private property, they’re not breaking the law by being on it. However, Virgina has a statute titled “Trespass after having been forbidden to do so.” That means if you’re told “either orally or in writing” by someone who owns or is responsible for the property to leave (as in, “Hey kid, get off my lawn!”) you could face a misdemeanor charge if you don’t leave or if you try it again.
Of course, trespassing on any property with any kind of “No Trespassing” sign posted is also illegal. This includes not just land, but “waters, ponds, boats or blinds”
Cemeteries and burial grounds
Some types of trespassing are more serious than others. For example, if someone “Trespass[es] at night upon any cemetery…. for any purpose other than to visit the burial lot or grave of some member of his family.” That is a higher level of misdemeanor than trespassing on someone’s lawn. That’s a good statute to keep in mind with Halloween coming up.
Trespassing for the purpose of doing damage or harm
Where the law gets particularly serious is when someone trespasses on a property “for purpose of damaging it, etc.” That “etc.” includes “interfer[ing] with the rights of the owner, user, or occupant….”
Even more serious is trespassing for the purpose of doing harm to property or the people within that property because they belong to a protected group (for example, because of their race or religion). That carries a sentence of at least six months behind bars. That’s in addition to charges for any damage done to property or harm to others.
Kids and even young adults too often get caught up in illegal activity because they’re with the wrong people in the wrong place. Even if they weren’t the ones who instigated the behavior, they can end up paying a price that can follow them for the rest of their lives. If your child is facing trespassing charges of any kind, it’s important to take the matter seriously. Make sure they have the legal guidance they need to protect their rights and their future.