property owners rights against trespassers

Spotting an uninvited guest on your Florida property is scary. The initial shock of the intrusion might give you pause, so we’ve created a list of property owner rights against trespassers to help you handle what happens next.


Who is considered a trespasser?

Florida law defines trespassers as people who willfully enter a property without invitation, authority, or license and refuse to leave when warned.

There are two main types of trespass: trespass in a structure and trespass outside of a structure. The first covers any type of property considered to be a roofed structure, such as a closed business or a vehicle, while the second covers instances in which a person enters restricted land or stays in public parks after closing. 

There are exceptions that allow structures without roofs to still be legally covered under Florida trespass law, such as if the property was damaged while in a governor-declared state of emergency.


How serious is trespassing?

Most trespassing is considered to be a misdemeanor. However, if a trespasser is armed, the crime of trespassing becomes a third-degree felony. There are additional circumstances that increase the severity of the crime, such as if the land trespassed on is a construction or commercial horticulture site.


What do I do if a trespasser is on my property?

According to Florida laws about property owners’ rights against trespassers, owners or those permitted by the owner are allowed to detain trespassers if a trespasser is armed. 

To avoid being held liable for false imprisonment or unlawful detention, the property owner must alert law enforcement about the detainee as soon as practical. Additionally, a trespasser may only be detained “in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable length of time.”

Remember that when dealing with a trespasser whom you believe is armed, it’s best to alert authorities to your situation as soon as possible.


Does the trespasser know they’re trespassing?

In some instances, a trespasser may have made an honest mistake and will leave of their own accord. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Florida law mentions that some instances of trespassing are reasonably understood to be trespassing, such as in the case of someone entering a closed restaurant without permission, while others would require some type of trespassing warning or signage.

If the trespasser does not know they are trespassing, use your best judgment when it comes to confronting them or calling authorities. Remember that trespassers are entitled to warnings of property dangers in some instances. 


What happens if a trespasser is hurt on my property?

Florida law states that property owners are not liable for any civil damages for damage, death, or injury suffered by a trespasser if the trespasser was under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs at the time. 

Property owners’ rights against trespassers state that owners are liable for such damages in specific instances, such as if the trespasser had a reasonable belief that they were welcome on the property.

However, Florida law states that property owners are liable for damages, injury, or death suffered by trespassers if any of the aforementioned was caused by gross negligence or intentional misconduct. 

If a property owner knew of a trespasser’s presence, the trespasser becomes what’s known as a “discovered trespasser” and is entitled to warnings of any dangerous conditions. If the property owner does not warn a discovered trespasser of dangerous conditions of their property, they may be held liable for any resulting damages. 

If a trespasser has been injured on your property, you must work with an experienced Florida premises liability lawyer who will know all the legal options available to you.

There is a difference between civil and criminal trespassing. According to Florida law, a property owner isn’t likely to be held liable for negligence that results in the death or injury of a person committing a felony or attempting to commit a felony on the property.

To further complicate premises liability law, Florida also has a “stand your ground” law that may impact the outcome of a case in which a property owner purposely wounds a trespasser. These cases are extraordinarily complex. You must work with a Florida premises liability lawyer who is an expert on property owners’ rights against trespassers.


Have more questions about how to handle a trespass case?

Contact a Florida premises liability lawyer today. 

Dealing with a trespasser is rarely a pleasant experience, which is why we want to help alleviate as much stress and frustration as possible. At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we dedicate ourselves to approaching premises liability cases with the utmost care for you and your rights. 

Reach out today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an expert Florida premises liability lawyer

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