What to do if I was recently caught trespassing on abandoned property?

I received a misdemeanor ticket and a court date. I don’t know if i should ask for a plea or not. I am a photography student, when we arrived on the property, an abandoned school, there were no “no trespassing” signs anywhere, the doors and windows were all wide open. I had no idea it was owned by someone. We were not seen inside the building, the police stopped us as we were walking around the outside of the property. I have a clean record. I don’t know if i should ask for a plea and hope they don’t charge me the maximum fine and put this on my record, or if I should fight it because of the circumstances.

Asked on September 8, 2013 under Criminal Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

There is no way to "fight it because of the circumstances"--ALL  property is owned by someone (a person; a company; a town/city; a state; an Indian tribe; or a federal government)--there is no unowned property. To go onto another's property without permission, regardless of the condition (i.e. "abandoned") of the property is trespassing; thus, you committed the offense. However, there is an excellent chance of the charges being dropped or getting off with no or an extremely light sentence--that's where the circumstances come into play, since no harm was done, there was no one present in the property when you trespassed, and (presumably) you were not commiting any other crimes at the time. So you probably will get a good plea offer, though ideally, you should retain an experienced local attorney, one who handles cases in municiple court, to represent you; experienced local counsel will maximize the chance of having the charges dropped or drastically reduced.

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