Maine Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

https://www.survivalsullivan.com/maine-trespassing-laws/

Maine: Fast Facts on Trespassing

  • Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land, Vehicles
  • Crime Class: Varies, see below
  • Fencing Required?: Yes, for land or areas without signs to prevent intrusion
  • Signage Required?: Yes, for land or areas without obstacles to prevent intrusion
  • Verbal Notice Required?: No.
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Maine Trespassing Law Overview

Confusing. Scattered. Redundant. All words that describe the State of Maine’s trespassing laws.

Spread across two different chapters, with some older laws annulled or removed in the way of new laws, but other old laws left in place that seem to say the same thing as some of the newer laws, Maine has an extremely confusing and dense set of State statutes covering trespassing.

Assuming you can get through this jawbreaker of legal language, the state’s laws are fairly comprehensive and logical, even if they are illogically written and poorly organized compared to some other states.

I will do my best to help you make sense of them in the article below.

Relevant Maine State Statutes

  • 17-A Section 402
  • 17-A Section 402-A
  • 17-A Section 404
  • 17 Section 3853-A
  • 17 Section 3853-C
  • 17 Section 3853-D
  • 17 Section 3859
  • 17 Section 3860

Okay it is time to buckle up, readers: Maine’s trespassing laws are no joke, and you’ll need to sharpen your pencil and pay close attention even with my helpful analysis.

Unlike the majority of states that place the legal definitions relevant to the chapter’s sections in a section of their own, Maine omits this, opting instead to include relevant definitions throughout the statutes where necessary. Sometimes. Maybe…

With that said, we will tackle one of the largest sections in the chapter first and also the one that is most likely to cover the majority of trespassing situations, Section 402.:

§402. Criminal trespass

1. A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, knowing that that person is not licensed or privileged to do so, that person:

A. Enters any dwelling place. Violation of this paragraph is a Class D crime;

B. Enters any structure that is locked or barred. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;

C. Enters any place from which that person may lawfully be excluded and that is posted in accordance with subsection 4 or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders or that is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;

D. Remains in any place in defiance of a lawful order to leave that was personally communicated to that person by the owner or another authorized person. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;

E. Enters any place in defiance of a lawful order not to enter that was personally communicated to that person by the owner or another authorized person. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime; or

F. Enters or remains in a cemetery or burial ground at any time between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise the following day, unless that person enters or remains during hours in which visitors are permitted to enter or remain by municipal ordinance or, in the case of a privately owned and operated cemetery, by posting. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime.

4. For the purposes of subsection 1, paragraph C, property is posted if it is marked with signs or paint in compliance with this subsection. Proof that any posted sign or paint marking is actually seen by an intruder gives rise to a permissible inference under the Maine Rules of Evidence, Rule 303 that such posted sign or paint marking is posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders.

A. Signs must indicate that access is prohibited, that access is prohibited without permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent, or that access for a particular purpose is prohibited.

B-1. Paint markings made pursuant to this paragraph mean that access is prohibited without permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent. Paint markings made pursuant to this paragraph must consist of a conspicuous vertical line at least one inch in width and at least 8 inches in length and must be placed so that the bottoms of the marks are not less than 3 feet from the ground or more than 5 feet from the ground at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart. Paint markings may be placed on trees, posts or stones as described in this paragraph. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Forestry shall adopt rules to determine the color and type of paint that may be used to post property pursuant to this paragraph. Rules adopted pursuant to this paragraph are routine technical rules pursuant to Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.

C. Signs or paint must mark the property at intervals no greater than 100 feet and at all vehicular access entries from a public road.

D. Signs or paint markings are required only on the portion of the property where access is prohibited or limited. Signs or paint posted in accordance with this section have no effect on boundaries of property and do not constitute claims of possession or adverse use in accordance with state law.

D-1. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, a landowner who posts that landowner’s land by paint markings and who intends to prohibit access without permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent or intends to prohibit access for a particular purpose may do this by posting in a prominent place one or more qualifying signs that by words or symbols set forth the nature of the prohibition. The landowner need not post the qualifying signs at 100-foot intervals.

E. A person commits criminal mischief and is subject to prosecution under section 806 if that person, without permission of the owner or owner’s agent:

(1) Knowingly posts the property of another with a sign or paint mark indicating that access is prohibited, that access is prohibited without permission or that access for a particular purpose is prohibited; or

(2) Removes, mutilates, defaces or destroys a sign or paint mark placed for purposes of this section.

Nothing in this subsection limits any manner of posting reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders.

Entering into any dwelling that one does not have license or privilege to enter is criminal trespassing, as is entering into any structure that is locked or otherwise barred under the same conditions.

Remaining or entering into any place of any kind where a person may be lawfully, legally excluded from doing so if the premises have a posted sign or markings that conform to the standards laid down in the latter part of the section is also criminal trespass.

Read paragraph 1 subsection C carefully; it states that the preceding is only criminal trespassing if the signage or markings are posted and there is evidence for reasonable belief that the person so trespassing saw the signs or markings.

This means the onus is on the property owner to ensure that not only his signage or markings conforms to the state’s laws for such, but also that they are posted in such a way that anyone involved in adjudicating such can be sure there is no way an intruder would not have seen them!

The next section, 402-A, covers aggravated criminal trespassing:

§402-A. Aggravated criminal trespass

1. A person is guilty of aggravated criminal trespass if, knowing that that person is not licensed or privileged to do so, that person enters a dwelling place and:

A. While in the dwelling place violates any provision of chapter 9 or chapter 11; or

B. At the time of the offense, the person has 2 or more prior convictions for any combination of the Maine offenses listed in this paragraph or for engaging in substantially similar conduct to that of the Maine offenses listed in this paragraph in another jurisdiction. The Maine offenses are: burglary in a dwelling place or criminal trespass in a dwelling place. Section 9-A governs the use of prior convictions when determining a sentence.

In short, trespassing inside a dwelling, meaning someone’s home or domicile even if a temporary one, and committing any other crime while inside but specifically burglary means that one is guilty of aggravated criminal trespass.

See also chapters 9 and 11, as violating any provision within either of those chapters will escalate criminal trespassing to aggravated criminal trespassing.

Next up is trespass by motor vehicle, helpfully covered in Section 404:

§404. Trespass by motor vehicle

1. A person is guilty of trespass by motor vehicle if, knowing that that person has no right to do so, that person intentionally or knowingly permits a motor vehicle belonging to that person or subject to that person’s control to enter or remain in or on:

A. The residential property of another;

B. The nonresidential property of another for a continuous period in excess of 24 hours; or

C. The nonresidential property of another that is:

(1) Posted in accordance with section 402, subsection 4;

(2) Posted to prohibit access by motor vehicles; or

(3) Posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders.

For purposes of this paragraph, property is posted to prohibit access by motor vehicles if the property owner or the owner’s agent has posted the property boundaries at points where they are crossed by roads or trails with signs indicating that motor vehicle access is prohibited or with paint markings that comply with section 402, subsection 4, paragraph B.

In the state of Maine parking, driving or allowing to be parked or driven a vehicle under your control on the property of someone else, especially when that property has a posted sign forbidding such, is criminal trespass by vehicle.

The next section, contained in the previous iteration of the chapter we just covered, details a few additional specific laws pertaining to trespassing:

§3853-C. Trespass by motor vehicle; civil violation

1. Violation. A person may not park a motor vehicle or allow a motor vehicle under that person’s control to remain parked:

A. In a private drive or private way in a manner that blocks or interferes with the free passage of other vehicles without the permission of the owner of that private drive or way; or

B. On a public highway in a manner that blocks the entrance to a private driveway, gate or barway.

2. Penalty. A person who violates subsection 1 commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $500 must be adjudged.

Parking your vehicle to block access to someone else’s property is a civil violation that will net you a $500 fine and no less.

The next section, 3853-A, covers public beaches and shores on bodies of water:

§3853-A. Public beaches and shores

The municipal officers in any municipality wherein a public beach, shore or bank exists may grant a permit to persons to allow horses, cattle, sheep, swine, motor vehicles or motor driven cycles to enter upon such beach, shore or bank at the times designated on such permit. Anyone willfully permitting cattle, horses, sheep, swine, motor vehicles or motor driven cycles to enter upon such public beach, shore or bank without such permit shall be guilty of trespass and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $20 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or by both.

Short and sweet. If any beach or shore requires a permit for the passage of vehicles or large animals and you take your vehicle or large animals on that beach or shore without said permit, you are guilty of trespassing.

This can result in either a $20 fine or a 30-day stint in jail, or both.

Next, see section 3853-D for more motor vehicle related statutes:

§3853-D. Operating a motor vehicle on land of another

1. Damage or destruction to farmland, forest land or public easement. A person who, as a result of operating a motor vehicle on farmland, forest land or a public easement in fact, damages or destroys crops, forest products, personal property or roads on that farmland, forest land or public easement, commits a Class E crime.

2. Definitions. As used in this section, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.

A. “Farmland” means land used for the production of fruits, vegetables, grains, hay or herbs that consists of 5 or more contiguous acres. The term “farmland” does not include land used for the production of wood products. A-1. “Forest land” means land used for the production of forest products. A-2. “Forest products” means any woody stemmed plant as well as any products that have been harvested but not yet transported from the harvesting site, including logs, pulpwood, veneer, bolt wood, wood chips, stud wood, poles, pilings, biomass, fuel wood, Christmas trees, evergreen boughs and cones for seed production.

A-3. “Emergency responder” means a person providing firefighting, rescue or emergency medical services.

B. “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively on tracks, including all-terrain vehicles as defined in Title 12, section 13001, but not including snowmobiles.

C. “Public easement” has the same meaning as in Title 23, section 3021, subsection 2.

3. Application. This section does not apply to:

A. A landowner operating a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land owned by that landowner;

B. A person given permission by a landowner to operate a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land owned by that landowner;

C. An agent or employee of a landowner who operates a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land owned by that landowner in the scope of that agent’s or employee’s agency or employment;

D. A law enforcement officer who, in an emergency and in the scope of that law enforcement officer’s employment, operates a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land owned by another or on a public easement; or

E. An emergency responder who, in an emergency and in performing the duties of the emergency responder, operates a motor vehicle on farmland or forest land owned by another or on a public easement.

Operating your vehicle on farmland, forest land or any public easement that results in damage is a Class E crime in Maine, with all attendant penalties and fines.

The long list of exempted people at the end of this section is important, because it covers people who have authorization or otherwise legal business on sale with land.

Do you have a right to be there in the course of your duties or your travel, you cannot be held responsible for damaging any crops, plants, woodlands or any other damage that might be incurred.

So, in essence, if you are not otherwise authorized to be on that land operating a motor vehicle and cause damage you will fall under the purview of this section.

Section 3859 covers illegal hunting on unimproved land intended for wildlife preservation. Sounds an awful lot like poaching to me, but Maine calls this “trespass on land devoted to wildlife preservation. It needs no explanation beyond the text:

§3859. Trespass on land devoted to wildlife preservation

Whoever willfully and knowingly hunts upon unimproved land devoted to the preservation of wildlife and owned by a corporation organized under Title 13, chapter 81, including that portion of any public way which crosses or abuts said land, provided that all boundaries of said land are posted with signs at least every 50 feet indicating that said land is a wildlife preserve, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $50.

The next section covers accessing large bodies of water and right to access excepting when the body of water is a source of public water or the intervening land is owned or leased by a water company or district:

§3860. Great pond; access or egress

No person on foot shall be denied access or egress over unimproved land to a great pond except that this provision shall not apply to access or egress over the land of a water company or a water district when the water from the great pond is utilized as a source for public water.

The Attorney General shall, upon complaint of a person being denied said access or egress, if in his judgment the public interest so requires, prosecute criminally or civilly any person who denies such right of access or egress.

Any person may maintain an action in the Superior Court having jurisdiction where the alleged denial of access or egress occurred or is likely to occur for declaratory and equitable relief and actual and punitive damages against any person, partnership, corporation or other legal entity for any violations of this section.

Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100 and by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.

Conclusion

Main’s trespassing laws are comprehensive and reasonable, but the legal statutes as they are today are confusing, lengthy and spread out to a point where it is an easy thing to miss on otherwise essential part of the law.

Maine is also notable for requiring the strict implementation of signs or marks on unimproved land and other property so that potential trespassers may see them.

If such signs or marks are absent or it is reasonably believed that the trespasser did not see them as posted, then no trespassing has occurred.

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