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Massachusetts G.L. c. 266 § 120: Trespass

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 266 section120 governs the misdemeanor offense of trespass.

The crime of trespassing is defined pursuant to the statute as: “Whoever, without right enters or remains in or upon the dwelling house, buildings, boats or improved or enclosed land, wharf, or pier of another, or enters or remains in a school bus, […] after having been forbidden so to do by the person who has lawful control of said premises, whether directly or by notice posted thereon, or in violation of a court order…”

In order to be convicted of trespass, the Commonwealth must prove that:

  1. The Defendant, without right, entered or remained in the dwelling house, building, boat, enclosed or improved land of another; and
  2. The Defendant was forbidden to enter or remain there by the person in lawful control of the premises, either directly or by means of notice posted.

The first element may be proven by any evidence that the defendant entered the premises without permission or failed to leave after being requested to do so. External structures of a person’s property such as porches, decks or steps may be considered part of the premises for purposes of trespass.

Additionally, the offense of trespass under this section can be applied to both public property owned by a State or municipality, as well as privately owned property. The Commonwealth need not prove who the owner of the property is, the Commonwealth need only provide evidence supporting an inference that the property was not owned by the Defendant.

This section however cannot apply to tenants or occupants of a residence who, after having a commenced a lawful tenancy, remain in the residence even after this tenancy has terminated. These individuals are often referred to as holdover tenants and they may not be the subject of criminal trespass charges, rather the landlord must initiate civil proceedings against these tenants.


The potential punishments for criminal trespass as provided by G.L. c. 266 section 120 is a maximum fine of $100, or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more then 30 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

A person who is found while committing a trespass may be arrested and kept in custody for no more than 24 hours.


As with any criminal charge the types of defenses available may depend on the nature and circumstances surrounding the offense. For instance, for charges of trespassing there may be potential penalties of necessity, duress or accident, which could serve as complete defenses to this charge.

Contact an experienced criminal law attorney to explore potential defenses and receive the best possible disposition for even minor criminal offenses.

Massachusetts Criminal Law Attorney 617-263-6800

If you or someone you know has been charged with trespass, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman is a fierce advocate who will fight to protect your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Because he understands that facing any criminal charge, no matter how minor, can cause anxiety and distress, he readily makes himself available to answer questions and address concerns. Call Attorney Neyman’s office at 617-263-6800 or send him an e-mail today. You can reach his office at any time of day or night, so do not hesitate.

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