The USA federal law for trespassing states:

A person commits an offense if, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, he or she enters or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure.

I'm curious how explicit one's knowledge that they lack privilege to enter anther's property must be before they are guilty of trespassing.

I have to assume that there has been some precedent set that states that if a reasonable person has reason to believe they have 'privileged' to enter a building then I wouldn't be guilty trespassing, thus the reason I can enter a store or my local church without asking explicit permission first.

I'm curious about this precedent I assume must exists, and where the lines are drawn on it. Is there case law that defines when one is allowed to presume they have permission, in absence of being explicitly forbidden, to enter a building? And where do they draw the line on ones ability to presume they have such privilege?

Could I walk into any strangers house because they haven't explicitly told me they don't want me to, or does case law say a reasonable person should know they are not welcome in a strangers home? Could my kids go jumping on a neighbor's trampoline or swim in their pool because the neighbor never built a fence or told them they weren't welcome?

1 Answer 1


Federal trespassing laws are only implicated on federal lands:


The specific law you are citing appears to be the one applicable to Indian lands.

State trespassing laws would be what a person would ordinarily need to worry about, and will likely vary in nuanced ways depending on the state.

The following page contains an interactive map that will pull up the trespassing laws for your state:


  • Is there a reason federal trespassing laws would not continue to apply to privately owned land an every state, regardless of rather or not that state also has it's own laws for trespassing?
    – dsollen
    Apr 30, 2020 at 6:03
  • @dsollen Federalism ( See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enumerated_powers_(United_States) Specific to this context though, I can't find a generic federal trespassing law. When I search the specific phraseology you used I only come up with one applicable to Indian Lands. What is the citation for the law you cited?
    – David Reed
    Apr 30, 2020 at 6:06
  • @dsollen To further clarify my above comment, the Constitution limits the powers of the federal government to those it explicitly enumerated (and anything necessary and proper to carry out those powers). Most of the classical criminal laws fall out of that purview. Notable exceptions are kidnapping and bank robbery.
    – David Reed
    Apr 30, 2020 at 6:25
  • @dsollen law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/25/11.411 Notice at the top it says "Part 11: Court of Indian offenses and law and order code". That's the only federal law I can find using the exact language you have used. Without a citation I'm forced to assume this is the one you were referring to. Alternatively, If you can provide the section of the U.S.C or CFR you cited I can likely show you how elsewhere in that section it will limit its applicability to federal property.
    – David Reed
    May 1, 2020 at 3:00

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