Florida’s Trespass on School Grounds Law
November 30, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
The holiday season has rolled around which means many Floridians are heading back home to celebrate with their families. You might even be heading home for the holidays! While you are at it, you might think to visit your alma mater to catch up with past friends and mentors that might be attending or working at your old school. Perhaps you may just want to walk around campus to reminisce on old times. But something unexpected happens. A campus officer stops you and questions you about your reason for being on campus. You try to tell him that you are just visiting to see old friends and think about times gone by. This campus officer asks you to leave, but this was your old school! So, you ignore him and continue your walkabout. Next thing you know, you’re stuffed in the back of a police car and slapped with a trespassing charge.
These situations are not all that rare, and just one of the various ways you could end up with a trespassing on school grounds charge. These charges have to be taken seriously and should be handled with the assistance of an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney.
Under Florida Law, it is a crime to be present on the grounds of a school or campus without having a legitimate purpose or business necessitating your presence on the school’s property. This crime is a misdemeanor offense punishable by possible jail time, probation, and fines. However, key defenses can make all the difference in you or a loved one’s trespassing on school grounds case.
The Statute – Florida Statute Section 810.097
Trespassing on school grounds is a criminal offense codified in Section 810.097 of the Florida Statutes. Under Florida law, a trespass has happened where an individual enters or stays on school property without the school’s permission or without a legitimate business purpose, or where an individual enters or stays on school property after being told by campus administration or employees to leave. Therefore, there are two ways this charge can occur:
- Trespassing on School Grounds Without Prior Warning
- Trespassing on School Grounds After Prior Warning by a Chief Administrative Officer
Pursuant to the statute, a “school” would mean any facility or campus of any elementary school, kindergarten school, middle school, junior high school, secondary school, and private or public school.
What Does the State Need to Prove to Convict?
In order to prove the offense of trespassing on school grounds without prior warning, the prosecution has to prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused entered or stayed on the campus or property of the school or campus facility; and
- The accused did not have
- a legitimate business that required their presence on campus; or
- permission to be on campus; or
- invitation to be on campus; or
- the accused had been suspended or expelled during the time they were on campus.
In order to prove the offense of trespassing on school grounds with prior warning by a chief administrative officer, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused entered or stayed on the school grounds or campus facility of a school; and
- The school’s principal or designee told the accused to
- leave school grounds or the campus facility; or
- not enter the school’s campus or facility in the first place.
Trespass on School Grounds Penalties
The penalties for this offense will change depending on whether a prior warning occurred.
No Prior Warning
If there was no prior warning by a chief administrative officer, the crime is considered a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
If there was a prior warning by a chief administrative officer, the crime is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to 12 months of probation, and up to $1,000 in fines.
Defenses to Trespass on School Grounds Defenses
Defenses will vary depending on the nature of the offense, but some common defenses include:
- No proof of identity of trespasser;
- Mistaken identity of trespasser;
- The property in question was not a school within the meaning of Section 810.097;
- The accused was not technically on school property;
- The accused had legitimate business on campus;
- The accused had express permission to be on campus;
- The accused had implied permission to be on campus;
- If charged as a prior warning offense, there were no prior warnings;
- If charged as a prior warning offense, the warning was unclear as to render it inadequate;
- If charged as a prior warning offense, the warning did not come from a chief administrative officer.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
This holiday season should be a carefree time to spend with your friends and family. If you do decide to visit your old stomping grounds, make sure you have all the information to make sure you don’t inadvertently get blindsided by a misdemeanor charge. If you or a loved one has been charged with Trespassing on School Grounds, focus on retaining an experienced and qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have the experience and passion to ensure that all defenses are explored in you or a loved one’s favor. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito