Des Moines Criminal Defense Lawyers for Trespass

Getting convicted of sneakin' around on other people's property is a good way to raise employers' eyebrows. Trespass convictions can impact your employment. Also, they're expensive and will show up on Iowa Courts Online if someone ever feels like Googling you to find out what you've been up to. If you're accused of trespassing, an Iowa trespass lawyer can offer you guidance on your options.

Des Moines Trespass Lawyers

Remember that in order to convict you, the prosecutors have to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt — including the intent or “mens rea” element.

At Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, we defend the rights and liberties of good people who are accused of bad things. An Iowa trespass lawyer might be able to find you a viable path to reasonable doubt, thus saving you from paying thousands in fines and restitution and spending time locked up away from your family.

Get out of trouble and get back to life. Call Clark and Sears Law, PLLC now at (515) 491 6128 to set up a free consultation. A receptionist is available 24/7 to take your call.

The criminal defense lawyers at Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, are based in the city of Des Moines and in Ankeny and represent defendants throughout Polk County and the rest of Iowa.

Trespassing in Iowa

Iowa Code Chapter 716.7 is about trespass.

If you go where you aren't supposed to be or stay there after you're supposed to leave, that is trespassing.

If a tenant enters property where they used to live once their rights to be there have expired, their former landlord might accuse them of trespass.

If a defendant gains access to property under false pretenses, a jury might determine that they have trespassed.

Degrees of trespass in Iowa

Depending on exactly what you did, whether you damaged anything, whether you intended to commit a hate crime, etc., trespass can be charged as a simple misdemeanor, serious misdemeanor, aggravated misdemeanor, or as a class "D" felony.

Simple misdemeanor trespass

Trespassing on someone else'se property is a simple misdemeanor. It is a miscellaneous scheduled violation under 805.8C. "Scheduled offenses" have specific punishments.

Unlike most simple misdemeanors, which are punished by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65 - $625 $105-$855 (July 15, 2020), simple misdemeanor trespass is punished by a $200 fine the first time, a $500 fine the second time, and $1000/time for every simple misdemeanor trespass offense after that.

Simple misdemeanor trespass - deer hunting

Trespassing while hunting deer other than farm deer or preserve whitetail is a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled violation. You'll have to pay a $200 fine the first time you're convicted of trespass, a $500 fine the second time, and $1000 time for every simple misdemeanor trespass offense after that.

In addition to the scheduled fine, you're subject to civil penalties. 481A.130 explains how much you'll have to reimburse the state for unlawfully killing/possessing an animal. You'll have to pay $1500 for deer without antlers and $2000 - $20,000 for deer with antlers.

The fine there is "based on the score of the antlered deer as measured by the Boone and Crockett club’s scoring system for whitetail deer." If you're charged with this, let me know and I'll learn all about it. For now, though, I'll sum it up as "it is expensive to kill a deer."

Oh. Also, you'll have to forfeit the deer. You'll get fined for trespass, you'll have to reimburse the State for the deer you unlawfully killed, and you'll have to forfeit the deer.

Serious misdemeanor trespass

Trespass might be a serious misdemeanor if:

  • You trespass and injure someone or cause more than $300 worth of damage to anything.
  • You knowingly trespass with the intent to commit a hate crime.
  • You trespass and look at, photograph, or film someone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy through the window without their consent.

There are defenses to some of these things. For example, serious misdemeanor trespass charges involving observations through a window may be negated when the person observed did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy or when they were subject to undercover investigations.

You could face up to a year in jail and will be fined $315 - $1875 $430 - $2,560 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of serious misdemeanor trespass.

Aggravated misdemeanor trespass

It is an aggravated misdemeanor to trespass with the intent to commit a hate crime which injures someone or causes more than $300 worth of damage.

You could face up to two years in prison and will be fined $625 - $6250 $855-$8,540 (July 15, 2020) if you're convicted of aggravated misdemeanor trespass.

Class D Felony trespass

Entering a public utility property without lawful authority or without consent is class D felony trespass. So is remaining upon the public utility property once your authority or consent has expired.

You could go to prison for up to five years for class D felony trespassing. Additionally, you'll be fined $1000 - $10,000 $1,025 minimum to $10,245 (July 15, 2020).

Penalties for trespassing in Iowa

If you're convicted of or plead guilty to Iowa trespass, you will face fines and/or jail time for a simple misdemeanor, a serious misdemeanor, an aggravated misdemeanor, or a class D felony.

  • Simple misdemeanor trespass. $200 fine the first time, a $500 fine the second time, and $1000/time thereafter.
  • Serious misdemeanor trespass. Up to a year in jail. Fines of $315 - $1875 $430 to $2560. (July 15, 2020)
  • Aggravated Misdemeanor trespass. Up to 2 years in prison. Fine of $625 to $6,250 $855 to $8540. (July 15, 2020)
  • Class D Felony trespass: Up to 5 years in prison. Fine of $1000 to $10,000 $1025 to $10,245. (July 15, 2020)

You will have to pay an additional 35% criminal penalty 15% crime services (July 15, 2020) surcharge on any fine

If you get a deferred judgment instead of a conviction, you will pay a civil penalty instead of a fine. Civil penalties in the same amounts as criminal fines — for instance, if you get a deferred judgment on a theft 5th, you could get a civil penalty of $65 $105 instead of getting a criminal fine for $65 $105. There’s no additional 35% 15% surcharge for civil penalties, though.

If you are placed on probation, there will be a $300 probation supervision fee.

You should expect to pay restitution for any damages you cause.

The county attorney might ask for the judge to order you to perform community service hours. You may be required to pay a placement fee to be placed into a local community service program.

You need to talk to city of West Des Moines arsonist lawyers if you’re facing criminal charges.


If you’re convicted of a crime causing injury or property damage in Iowa, you probably owe victim restitution.

The Court will establish a plan of restitution.

You probably already know that if you damage property (or injure someone) during a trespass, you will have to repay the person whose property you injured. You may be surprised to find out that you may also have to pay fines, civil penalties, and surcharges. Additionally, you may have to:

  • Reimburse the crime victim restitution program.
  • Contribute funds to a local anticrime organization that helped the police in your case.
  • Pay court costs and correctional fees.
  • Pay court-appointed attorney fees, including the expense of a public defender.
  • Perform public service or community service if you can’t reasonably pay all or part of the court costs

Your payments have to go to the victims’ restitution order first, before your payments count toward fines, penalties, surcharges, crime victime compensation program reimbursement, public agency reimbursement, court costs, correctional fees, court-appointed attorney fees, expenses of a public defender, or contributions to local anti-crime organizations.

If the court orders you to pay restitution, your victim may file a restitution lien. Even though your victim will be granted a right to victim restitution for what your crime cost them, that victim restitution doesn’t prevent them from being able to sue you for damages in a separate civil action.

Iowa Code 915.100

Trespass enhancements

Habitual offender enhancement for trespass

D felony trespass can be affected by the habitual offender enhancements of Iowa Code 902.8.

If you've been convicted of two or more felonies before in Iowa, in any other state, or in the United States, you are considered a habitual offender.

When you get convicted of a class C felony or a class D felony -- such as felony trespass -- and you have two or more prior felony convictions, you will have to spend a minimum of three years in prison before you can become eligitble for parole.

Hate crime enhancement for trespass

Iowa Code 729A.2 concerns hate crime enhancements.

If you trespass against a person or their property because of the person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability, or the person’s association with a person of a certain race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability, you will face a more severe conviction and penalty than you would have if you had trespassed against them without that motivation.

The Des Moines Register wrote about one locally-well-known example of this criminal mischief hate crime enhancement. In the Martinez case out of Story County, a man got sentenced to 16 years for third-degree arson in violation of individual rights -- hate crime, third degree harassment, and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender. People seemed surprised that you could get that much time for burning a piece of fabric, but he had a hate crime enhancement and a habitual offender enhancement; those really do add up.

Iowa charges related to trespass

There are trespass-adjacent offenses that you might also be charged with. Depending on your circumstances, a prosecutor might offer a plea offer from trespass to another property offense -- or from another property offense to trespass.

Criminal mischief

Vandalism can be anywhere from a simple misdemeanor to a class C felony. Depending on the details of the allegations and conviction, you could face fines of $65 - $10,000 $105 - $10,245 (July 15, 2020) for criminal mischief, and you could face no jail time -- or up to ten years in prison.

Disorderly conduct

Disorderly conduct is a simple misdemeanor.


Harassment is a misdemeanor offense. Depending on the details and severity, harassment can be a simple, serious, or aggravated misdemeanor.

Defenses to Trespassing

The government's lawyer has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you're guilty of all statutory elements of trespass. If they can't do that, you get acquitted. If you're acquitted, you're not guilty. If you're not guilty, you go home.

Some possible trespassing defenses include:


Did the property you were wandering around on belong to you?

As long as you aren't committing any other crimes, it isn't trespass if you own the property (or if you're validly renting it or otherwise have license to be on it.)


Did the property owner consent to you being on the property? If you have consent or if you had no reason to know that consent had been revoked, you may not have trespassed.

Mistaken Identity

If your evil twin brother was the trespasser, you shouldn't be convicted of his offense.


If you can prove that you were somewhere else, then you couldn't have committed the crime.

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

The First Amendment is my best friend and sometimes-savior but I also really, really love the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures. If your stolen property lawyer can show the court that you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the evidence in your case could get suppressed. If enough evidence gets suppressed, the charges get reduced or the charges get dismissed. If there's no proof of guilt, there's no tenable case against you.

Des Moines Trespassing Lawyers

Call an Iowa trespass defense attorney when you’re facing charges in the city of Des Moines Iowa or near the University of Iowa.

Des Moines trespass lawyers can help ensure that your rights are respected when you’re accused of an offense in the greater Des Moines area.

polk county iowa criminal defense lawyers katie sears and john sears defense attorneys for trespassing in iowa

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  Reading this site doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship.  If you want to talk to us about your trespassing accusation in Iowa, please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk.

What will happen if I’m charged?

When someone alleges that you have trespassed, law enforcement will start an investigation.  Depending on whether they believe there is probable cause to charge you with Iowa trespass, you could be taken to jail or given documents that say when your court date is.  After your arrest, you will be read your rights and given an opportunity to call a lawyer or a law firm.

You will be taken in front of the judge for an initial appearance.  The judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to ask a witness questions to establish whether probable cause exists to charge you with the offense.  At this hearing, the witness will be under oath. There are reasons that your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. You should consult with them before making a decision.

Your attorney will let you know when you will next have to appear in front of the court.  This may be for an arraignment or you may be able to submit a written arraignment.

The county attorney’s office will review the information provided to them by the police.  They will determine what offenses to charge you with. You could be charged with a misdemeanor with a felony

Your attorney will let you know what the government is claiming you did, what your rights are, what the worst case scenario sentence could be, and how this could affect your criminal record. Your criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply.
Your law firm will give you legal advice on the pros and cons of taking your case to trial.  The decision of whether or not to go to trial is ultimately yours.

Finally, if you’re convicted, you might have reason and opportunity to appeal your conviction or sentence to the court of appeals or even to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Supreme Court might even say that there was a constitutional problem with the statute you were charged under.  Ask your criminal defense attorney for more information.

What should I know about lawyers generally?

Attorneys are people who completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees and then went on to attend a law school, such as Drake University Law School in Des Moines.  After completing law school, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam and are evaluated for character and fitness. Iowa lawyers are admitted to the Iowa state bar. The bar association regulates the legal profession.

Some lawyers and law firms do general practice, which means they accept all kind of representation.  Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. A lawyer might do only civil practice or only criminal defense.  Some lawyers get even more particular than that, practicing only (or primarily) in a narrow area, such as domestic violence, sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, family law, child custody, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, marijuana, DUI defense, controlled substance offenses, arson, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, drug offenses, traffic violations, violent crime or drunk driving. 

Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. All Iowa crimes are defined in the Iowa Code.  The Iowa rules of criminal procedure control what happens in Iowa criminal justice cases.

Federal court is different. If you are facing federal charges for a federal criminal offense, make sure to let your Iowa lawyer know that so that they can give you referrals to other attorneys, if necessary. Federal courts in Iowa are not the same things as state law courts in Iowa. Federal prosecutors and federal judges use different procedural rules. Federal crimes are subject to federal sentencing.

What offenses exist in Iowa criminal law?

Criminal law offenses are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Class A felonies exist, but most people facing felony charges are facing a class B felony, a class C felony, or a class D felony. If you have questions about Iowa arson laws, you should talk to a lawyer.

What can an Iowa criminal defense lawyer do for me?

If you’ve been accused, you need to be in contact with an attorney or law firm that works with Iowa criminal law.

If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your Iowa criminal defense attorney can help coordinate with law enforcement to coordinate a self-surrender that doesn’t result in potential embarrassment at work or while you’re home with your family.

Your Iowa criminal lawyer will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office and let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial.  Further, counsel can provide some guidance on whether it’s advisable in your position to consider a plea agreement or to go to trial. They will talk to you about whether a judge or jury is likely to find a particular witness credible.

Your criminal lawyer will let you know what sort of jail time you might be facing if convicted, how this will impact your criminal history, and how likely it is that you could get your charges dismissed.

Victim Resources

 Finally, there is a Victim Services Support Program available through the Iowa attorney general’s office.