According to West Encyclopedia of American Law, trespassing is defined as, "An unlawful intrusion that interferes with one's person or property." Specifics of the law vary from state to state, but generally, intruding on another person's driveway without permission, especially if the property has gates and fences or signage indicating "No Trespassing" or "Private Property", the owner or the tenant may press charges for trespass. The trespass may be by a person or their vehicle. But, once the property owner orders a person off the property, the person and/or their vehicle legally trespass if they remain.
Trespass Enforcement Measures
Successful enforcement of trespassing happens when steps taken by the homeowner make it abundantly clear that neither people nor their vehicles are welcome on their driveway without the owner's explicit permission. Fences and gates at the point where your driveway meets the street prevent most people or vehicles from trespassing over the driveway. If gated, it can include a combination lock or card swipe device only allowing access to those with authorisation. If fences and gates are not feasible, signs can be erected declaring the driveway as private property or a no trespassing zone.
Some suggest parking in front of the driveway, blocking illegal access or that the homeowner should try putting a chain across the driveway. These tactics reinforce your efforts to abhort or discourage trespassers but they are only prevention measures.
Others suggest parking behind the trespassing vehicle. This action prevents their moving the vehicle before the police or tow truck respond. This step, like some of the preventive measure listed above, documents the problem for authorities.
Law Enforcement Options
Trespassers normally leave posted properties in honour of the homeowner's wishes, especially after requesting they depart. But, if the trespasser(s) refuse and insist on standing their ground, call the police and prosecute them for trespassing. Prosecution for trespassing can result in fines and jail time as either a criminal or civil offence depending on the state and on the circumstances.
Even it never gets prosecuted, calling authorities documents the problem and makes it clear that trespassers have infringed on your rights.
Assuming good cause, law enforcement may enter the driveway of a property and take the walkway from their vehicle to the front door. If the officer wanders into the side yard or other areas of the property without the property owner's permission or knowledge, or if the officer peers into the window while the unsuspecting residents are inside, the police visit has gone from a nontrespassing situation to one of an unlawful search. Any evidence gathered while conducting an unlawful search cannot become evidence in a court of law.
If the police remain on the property after being asked to vacate, the judge considers whether the officer had good reason for remaining on the property before deciding the issue.
- eNotes: Trespass
- Department of Local Government: NSW Government: Australia: Ways to Resolve Vehicle Trespass and Driveway Obstruction Problems
- Moeland: Trespass, Adverse Possession and Prescriptive Easements
- Law Enforcement: Alameda County District Attorney's Office: Police Tresspassing
- Law Free FAQ: If Someone Parks in Your Driveway