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There are a number of Mississippi property crimes, ranging from trespassing to malicious mischief. Malicious mischief can encompass offenses ranging from vandalism to destruction of property. A person can be charged with trespassing in the state if he or she willfully or maliciously trespasses upon the property of another. Further, trespassing in Mississippi under the enclosed land statute means a person entered another person’s property without his or her consent and after being warned to stay off the property.
Such a warning can come in the form of a personal notice by the person who owns the land or by posting signs on the property which warn others not to trespass. There is a separate Mississippi statute which makes it illegal to remove such a warning sign, or even to deface or alter a trespasser warning sign. A person who originally had consent to enter another’s property, must leave when asked by the owner to do so, or he or she could be charged with trespassing. Basic trespassing charges in Mississippi are charged as misdemeanors, and a conviction for trespassing can bring a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
Exclusions to Trespassing Crimes
Those who enter a property with a lawful business purpose, such as a land surveyor, cannot be charged with trespassing. The landowner’s family and guests are also not bound by Mississippi trespassing laws. There are also times when a person may have mistakenly trespassed onto another’s property, believing they are still on their own property. An example of this would be a person walking in the woods on his or her own property and accidentally ending up on another’s property.
If a person damages another’s property, and the value of that damage is less than $500, it is a misdemeanor charge with a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. When the damage to another’s property is valued at more than $500, it can be charged as a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison with fines as high as $10,000. A conviction for malicious mischief in the state of Mississippi can also result in the necessity of the convicted person being required to pay restitution to the victim of the crime—repairing or replacing the damaged property in addition to the fines you are assessed.
Specific properties could bring a more severe penalty for malicious mischief. Those properties include basically any item in a cemetery—including urns, burial vaults and memorials—courthouses, jails, public buildings, schools, and churches. Damage of less than $300 on any of these types of properties can result in misdemeanor charges, up to a year in jail and fines as large as $1,000. If the damage to these properties is more than $300, the crime will be charged as a felony, and a conviction could result in up to 5 years in prison and fines as large as $5,000.
Defenses to Trespassing Charges
The elements of a criminal trespass charge include an entrance onto property without the permission of the owner. Criminal trespass can also include defacing, mutilating or defiling another’s property. While the defense to your trespassing charges will depend on the specific facts surrounding your case, some of the more common defenses to trespassing include:
- Consent—if you had the consent of the owner to enter his or her property, then you did not illegally trespass, however the consent is not valid if obtained via fraud, and consent cannot be gained from children, legally incompetent people, or those who are under the influence;
- Reclamation of your own property—Under certain circumstances you may be allowed to trespass if you are in the process of regaining your own property; however, the act which deprived you of that property must have been the property owner’s fault or a storm, wind, or another act of God;
- Public necessity—If you trespass on another’s property in an effort to protect the public during an emergency, you cannot be convicted of criminal trespass; and
- Private necessity—If you are attempting to protect yourself, another person, the land or an animal from serious bodily injury, you may not be guilty of trespass, but could be held civilly liable for damages you might cause during the trespass.