Criminal charge of trespass puts landlord in the hot seat

In Colorado, criminal trespass is a crime that has several different degrees of seriousness. Most trespass offenses carry a term of imprisonment as a possible punishment, in addition to a wide range of fines. The criminal charge in a trespass case will therefore depend on the facts and how the prosecutor decides to categorizes those facts.

One kind of trespass is the case of a landlord going onto the tenant's property without due notice. Most state laws require notice to the tenant, absent an emergency, before the landlord can enter the demised premises. A recent Colorado case is getting a lot of attention due to the rare nature of what authorities allege occurred.

The apartment renter had a video surveillance system installed in his apartment. With the advancements of modern technology, the unit was programmed to notify the owner of a violation. The tenant received an alert and on his phone screen appeared the unexpected and unwanted display of his landlord having sex in his apartment with another male individual.

The tenant was shocked. He called his wife and told her to prepare to move out. He next called the police, which led to felony trespass charges against the landlord. With the video feed, defense counsel cannot argue mistaken identity or some good purpose to be inside the premises. That is due to the landlord's lack of authority to be there for that purpose. 

Felony criminal trespass in Colorado is punishable by a term of imprisonment from six months to six years, and a fine as high as $100,000. The criminal charge consists of entering without permission the dwelling of another with the intent of committing a crime therein. Because sex, or even sex with another man, is not per se illegal, defense counsel may ask the question what crime did the landlord intend to commit? Presumably, the trespass is the act of entering and staying, but the intended crime may be cloaked in legal doubt. If that argument is not successful, it may nonetheless raise enough doubt to move the sentence to the light end of the range rather than the heavy end.

Source:, "Colorado landlord arrested for trespassing after caught having sex in renters' bed", Dec. 4, 2016

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