Colorado is a state with generally sane and logical trespassing laws. There are relatively few of them, they are short, and they don’t beat around the bush. This makes them easy to understand compared to some other states with long, run-on statutes and byzantine language.
But as an unfortunate side-effect, the general and plainspoken language that Colorado typically employs in its statutes means they might have more reach than their creators intended…
Or perhaps not… there are a couple of situations you’ll need to be careful and lest you fall on the wrong side of the law. You can get the fast facts on Colorado’s trespass laws just below, and then right after that we will dive in a little deeper.
What You Need to Know
- Colorado trespass law covers all buildings, vehicles and undeveloped land.
- Neither fencing, signage nor notice is required, but trespassing past a barrier escalates the crime.
- There are felony and misdemeanor versions of trespassing in Colorado.
Any kind of real property in the state of Colorado constitutes “premises” in regards to trespassing. It can be a building, it can be an improvement upon a residential lot, a dwelling, bare land, just about anything.
Colorado defines “premises” in just about the most inclusive way imaginable as far as the law is concerned.
Colorado also includes in that definition any body of water that flows over or is contained within an existing premises. Someone cannot avoid a trespassing charge just because they are paddling down your stream, for instance.
Colorado schedules its trespassing charges by first, second and third degrees. The lower the number, the worse the crime.
First degree criminal trespassing is entering unlawfully, or remaining inside the dwelling of another person, or entering the motor vehicle of another person with the intent to commit any crime therein. This is a felony.
Second degree criminal trespassing occurs when a person unlawfully enters or remains in or upon any premises of another person which is enclosed in such a way as to exclude Intruders, for instance by a fence, wall, etc, or when they knowingly and unlawfully enter the motor vehicle of another person.
Second degree criminal trespassing is a misdemeanor, unless you trespass on to agricultural land with the intent to commit some other felony while on the land. Then it is a felony.
Lastly 3rd degree criminal trespass occurs simply if a person enters or remains in or upon any premises of another.
This is sort of a catch-all category for trespassing and is a petty offense, but can be upgraded to a misdemeanor if it occurs on any agricultural land, and can be upgraded again to a felony if a person trespasses upon this land with intent to commit a felony while upon the land.
Posted Notice, Fences, Etc.
Fences, walls, gates and other obstacles and enclosures only really come into effect in the state of Colorado in regards to second-degree trespass.
Unlawfully entering someone’s unenclosed and otherwise unguarded property is one thing- that is 3rd degree trespass– but doing so after having to defeat some barrier that is designed to keep people out or stay off the property is what upgrades the charge to second degree criminal trespass.
Other than that, no signs and no notice of any kind are required in Colorado, so the onus is on the person potentially trespassing to avoid trespassing.
If you don’t know for certain that you have a right to be somewhere, or you suspect you might be on private property, take care that you do not get caught and trespassed, as it could be completely up to the owner of the land, if they catch you, to have you trespassed or charged.
Colorado does not screw around when it comes to trespassing, with each grade of the crime potentially rating felony charges, though most are misdemeanors. That means you could be spending several years in a proper prison, along with substantial fines.
This is not typically a worry for someone who is not out looking for trouble or trying to cause problems, but you should be aware of it, since it is not out of the question that accidentally traipsing onto agricultural land, let us say, while armed or in a potentially compromising situation could lead to you being charged accordingly with a serious felony.
You have to know where you are and where you have a right to be in Colorado if you want to stay out of trouble. Pay attention out there!
Important Colorado State Statutes
As mentioned above Colorado statutes on trespassing or short, crisp and entirely to the point. It is definitely worth your time to read them in their entirety and familiarize yourself with them:
18-4-504.5. Definition of premises
As used in sections 18-4-503 and 18-4-504, “premises” means real property, buildings, and other improvements thereon, and the stream banks and beds of any nonnavigable fresh water streams flowing through such real property.
18-4-502. First degree criminal trespass
A person commits the crime of first degree criminal trespass if such person knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in a dwelling of another or if such person enters any motor vehicle with intent to commit a crime therein. First degree criminal trespass is a class 5 felony.
18-4-503. Second degree criminal trespass
(1) A person commits the crime of second degree criminal trespass if such person:
(a) Unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the premises of another which are enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders or are fenced; or
(b) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in or upon the common areas of a hotel, motel, condominium, or apartment building; or
(c) Knowingly and unlawfully enters or remains in a motor vehicle of another.
(2) Second degree criminal trespass is a class 3 misdemeanor, but:
(a) It is a class 2 misdemeanor if the premises have been classified by the county assessor for the county in which the land is situated as agricultural land pursuant to section 39-1-102 (1.6), C.R.S.; and
(b) It is a class 4 felony if the person trespasses on premises so classified as agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony thereon.
(3) Whenever a person is convicted of, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, receives a deferred judgment or sentence for, or is adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for, a violation of paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section, the offender’s driver’s license shall be revoked as provided in section 42-2-125, C.R.S.
18-4-504. Third degree criminal trespass
(1) A person commits the crime of third degree criminal trespass if such person unlawfully enters or remains in or upon premises of another.
(2) Third degree criminal trespass is a class 1 petty offense, but:
(a) It is a class 3 misdemeanor if the premises have been classified by the county assessor for the county in which the land is situated as agricultural land pursuant to section 39-1-102 (1.6), C.R.S.; and
(b) It is a class 5 felony if the person trespasses on premises so classified as agricultural land with the intent to commit a felony thereon.