New Hampshire Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

https://www.survivalsullivan.com/new-hampshire-trespassing-laws/

New Hampshire: Fast Facts on Trespassing

  • Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Vehicles, Land
  • Crime Class: Misdemeanor, Felony
  • Fencing Required?: No, if signage posted.
  • Signage Required?: No, if premises are fenced.
  • Verbal Notice Required?: No.
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New Hampshire Trespassing Law Overview

  • Trespassing in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor charge, unless subsequent violations result in damage over $1,500.
  • Misdemeanor charges only apply if trespass takes place upon or in an occupied structure, fenced/walled property, vehicle, upon property with posted “no trespassing signs” or upon any property person has been specifically forbidden from being upon.
  • Failing to control livestock and allowing them on to someone else’s land constitutes trespass in New Hampshire.
  • New Hampshire has specific requirements for signage; a description of the physical activity forbidden with block letters 2” high and the name of the owner of the property on the sign shall be posted no more than 100 yards apart and at every common entrance to the property.
  • Unauthorized access to a graveyard or tombstone may constitute trespass in New Hampshire and carries a felony charge.

Relevant New Hampshire State Statutes

  • Section 637:2 – Definitions
  • Section 635:1 – Burglary
  • Section 635:2 – Criminal Trespass
  • Section 635:3 – Trespassing Stock or Domestic Fowl
  • Section 635:4 – Prescribed Manner of Posting
  • Section 635:5 – Penalty
  • Section 635:6 – Interference With Cemetery or Burial Ground
  • Section 635:8 – Penalties

You always want to start with the definitions whenever you’re reading through legal statutes. A few clever additions or interpretations to otherwise common definitions might change the meaning and force of entire passages, and you don’t want to get caught unawares since claiming ignorance of the law is never an excuse or a defense.

Most of New Hampshire’s definitions covering trespassing are found in the pertinent sections, but we do need to go to a previous couple of chapters to get definitions covering property that is specifically referenced:

637:2 Definitions.

The following definitions are applicable to this chapter:

I. “Property” means anything of value, including real estate, tangible and intangible personal property, captured or domestic animals and birds, written instruments or other writings representing or embodying rights concerning real or personal property, labor, services, or otherwise containing any thing of value to the owner, commodities of a public utility nature such as telecommunications, gas, electricity, steam, or water, and trade secrets, meaning the whole or any portion of any scientific or technical information, design, process, procedure, formula or invention which the owner thereof intends to be available only to persons selected by him.

A particular note in this section is that the definition of “property” specifically includes real estate, and it’s further qualified by being something which the owner thereof intends to grant access only to particular persons selected by them.

All you need to know for the purposes of the section covering criminal trespassing is that land, buildings and dwellings are all specifically covered by this definition.

There is one more definition which is borrowed from the beginning of the section on criminal trespass which defines what an occupied structure is:

635:1 Burglary.

III. “Occupied structure” shall mean any structure, vehicle, boat or place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or for carrying on business therein, whether or not a person is actually present. “Night” shall mean the period between 30 minutes past sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.

The definition of “occupied structure” specifically means any building or vehicle or any other place that is adapted for overnight accommodation of people whether or not people are actually present at the time the trespass occurs.

Regarding vehicles, this obviously means something like an RV or a van with a sleeper compartment but it would be highly dependent upon case precedent whether or not a conventional vehicle like a sedan or pickup truck would fit under this definition.

The next section, 635:2 gets into the nuts and bolts of criminal trespass in New Hampshire:

635:2 Criminal Trespass. –

I. A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place.

II. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a class B felony for any subsequent offense if the person knowingly or recklessly causes damage in excess of $1,500 to the value of the property of another.

III. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor if:
(a) The trespass takes place in an occupied structure as defined in RSA 635:1, III; or
(b) The person knowingly enters or remains:
(1) In any secured premises;
(2) In any place in defiance of an order to leave or not to enter which was personally communicated to him by the owner or other authorized person; or
(3) In any place in defiance of any court order restraining him from entering such place so long as he has been properly notified of such order.

IV. All other criminal trespass is a violation.

V. In this section, “secured premises” means any place which is posted in a manner prescribed by law or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, or which is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders.

VI. In this section, “property,” “property of another,” and “value” shall be as defined in RSA 637:2, I, IV, and V, respectively.

Plainly stated, a person is trespassing in New Hampshire if they enter or remain in any place which they know they do not have a right to be.

This places the onus of the crime on the trespasser, not the owner of the land, and any requirements surrounding its use or declaration. There are signage requirements that matter if a property is going to be considered a secured premises, but we will get into those in just a bit.

Additionally, if any person defies an order to leave or specific instructions forbidding them from going upon any property or into any place that is also criminal trespassing under this statute.

All of these charges are misdemeanors unless a subsequent charge of trespassing also results in damage of $1,500 or more to the property trespassed upon, in which case the charge is upgraded to a felony.

For the purposes of this section, a secured premise is any place or building that has posted signage in accordance with New Hampshire law or has fencing or other barriers around it which are intended to preclude entry.

The next section covers trespass of livestock or domestic fowl upon the property of another which is still enough to net you a trespassing charge:

Section 635:3 – Trespassing Stock or Domestic Fowl

635:3 Trespassing Stock or Domestic Fowl. – If any person having the charge or custody of any sheep, goats, cattle, horses, swine, or domestic fowl shall knowingly, recklessly, or negligently suffer or permit the same to enter upon, pass over, or remain upon any improved or enclosed land of another without written permission of the owner, occupant, or his or her agent, and thereby injures the owner’s crops or property, the person shall be guilty of a violation. Complaints shall be made to law enforcement officials or local animal control officers who shall enforce the provisions of this section.

If you are the owner of any typical livestock animals listed in the above section and knowingly or negligently allow them to enter upon the land of another person, be it improved or otherwise enclosed, and those animals cause damage to the property or anything growing upon it, you are guilty of a violation.

Make sure you keep all of your animals large and small under control in the state of New Hampshire!

The next section, 635:4, details the signage requirements for the state:

Section 635:4 – Prescribed Manner of Posting

635:4 Prescribed Manner of Posting. – A person may post his land to prohibit criminal trespass and physical activities by posting signs of durable material with any words describing the physical activity prohibited, such as “No Hunting or Trespassing”, printed with block letters no less than 2 inches in height, and with the name and address of the owner or lessee of such land. Such signs shall be posted not more than 100 yards apart on all sides and shall also be posted at gates, bars and commonly used entrances. This section shall not prevent any owner from adding to the language required by this section.

New Hampshire’s signage requirements are interesting. The sign must be made from some durable material that will withstand the elements, and must specifically describe the forbidden activity, for instance, “no trespassing” or “no hunting” or “no skateboarding”, etc.

The letters of this sign must be block font and no less than 2 inches in height each. The name and address of the owner or lessee of the property must also be on each sign, and the signs cannot be more than 100 yards apart from each other.

A sign must also be posted at every common entrance to the property, gates, chains, driveways, etc.

This section also specifically states that nothing in the law prevents the owner of the land from adding any additional language that they want to the sign.

Now on to the penalty for disturbing or removing such signs:

Section 635:5 – Penalty

635:5 Penalty. – Any person who is found removing, defacing or destroying any sign, poster or property of another shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

Interfering with any posted ‘no trespassing’ sign in any way is a misdemeanor in New Hampshire.

The next section is included for completeness. Interference with cemeteries or burial grounds has its own separate section in New Hampshire law but the way that it is written, particularly concerning burial plots, may mean that simple trespassing could result in the appropriate charge under the statute. See section 635:6:

Section 635:6 – Interference With Cemetery or Burial Ground

635:6 Interference With Cemetery or Burial Ground.

I. No person, without the written authorization of the owner of a burial plot, or the lineal descendant or ascendant of the deceased, if such owner or lineal descendant or ascendant is known, or the written authorization of the governing board of the municipality in which the burial plot lies, if the owner or lineal descendant or ascendant is unknown, shall:
(a) Purposely or knowingly destroy, mutilate, injure or remove any tomb, monument, gravestone, marker, or other structure, or any portion or fragment thereof, placed or designed for a memorial of the dead, or any fence, railing, gate, curb, or plot delineator or other enclosure for the burial of the dead.
(b) Purposely or knowingly disturb the contents of any tomb or grave in any cemetery or burial ground.

II. The governing board of the municipality in which the burial plot lies shall not grant approval for the removal or disturbance of a tomb, monument, gravestone, marker, or plot delineator without first giving 30 days’ notice, along with a report of the full circumstances, to the division of historical resources, that such approval has been requested. The governing board of the municipality shall maintain a record of the date, circumstances, and disposition of the request for removal or disturbance.

Under a strict interpretation of the law written above, merely walking upon the grounds of the cemetery at a gravesite or tomb could constitute a disturbance there, and see you charged accordingly.

Again, this may be a liberal interpretation but considering this section is included in the same chapter as the rest of the criminal trespass laws of the State of New Hampshire, this is not as far-fetched as you might think.

If you do not have any particular right to be upon the grounds of any Cemetery, don’t be messing around out there for any reason if you want to avoid a charge!

Also in the interest of completeness the next section covers the penalties for doing so, and it is a doozy:

Section 635:8 – Penalties

635:8 Penalties. – Any person who is convicted of an offense under RSA 635:6 or 635:7 shall be guilty of a class B felony, and shall be ordered by the court to make restitution for damages resulting from the offense and for replacement of removed items.

There you have it, as simple as that. Disturbing any gravesite or cemetery constitutes a felony, a stark contrast to the rest of the trespass laws in New Hampshire! Always be doubly sure that you’re in the right before entering upon any cemetery grounds!

Conclusion

New Hampshire’s law covering trespassing is broadly easy-to-understand and sensible, with the only point of concern being the rather liberal wording of the section covering disturbance of grave sites and cemeteries.

This could turn a simple misunderstanding over inadvertent trespass into a felony charge if the conditions were right. Aside from that, there are very few surprises in New Hampshire’s law pertaining to trespass.

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