I have a client named Ruth. Her daughter Helen, called me recently. Ruth is staying out of state at Helen’s house with Helen for a couple of months while Ruth recovers from a medical issue. Ruth’s house here in Florida is empty. *All names are fictional.

Drama has ensued because Bubba, Ruth’s son and Helen’s brother, keeps entering Ruth’s house without permission. The neighbors call Helen every time they see Bubba at the house. Bubba is not living in the house and so far hasn’t damaged the house. He hangs out for a couple of hours and then leaves.

Helen is furious because Bubba has a criminal record, is on probation, and has skanky, drug-abusing friends. Helen is convinced that Bubba is going to burn the house down. What can Helen do to keep Bubba out of the house?

I explained to Helen that if Bubba truly is entering without Ruth’s permission then Bubba could be breaking the Florida 810.02 which defines the offense of “trespass in structure or conveyance” as entering or remaining in a building, structure, or conveyance without permission, license, or invitation from the owner or authorized occupant.

A “structure” refers to any building, enclosed area with a roof over it, or any other building or improvement designed for use or occupancy, including a dwelling, commercial building, storage facility, or public building. A “conveyance” refers to any motor vehicle, aircraft, vessel, or other vehicle used for transportation.

The severity of the offense depends on the circumstances of the trespass. For example, if Bubba was armed with a firearm, committed a battery, or caused damage to the property, the offense is classified as a felony of the third degree. If Bubba entered Ruth’s house without permission and did not commit any other crimes, the offense is classified as a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

But Bubba is on probation, and he is required to follow certain conditions as set forth by the court., Specifically, Florida Statute 948.06 states that a probationer must “obey all laws, ordinances, and rules of the United States, the state, and any municipality or county thereof.” If Bubba gets arrested for trespass, it could result in a violation of his probation. Probation violations are taken seriously in Florida. Bubba’s trespass into Ruth’s house could lead to the imposition of additional probation conditions, extended probation, or even incarceration.

I asked Helen to first make sure that Ruth didn’t give Bubba a key or permission to enter the house. You know parents – they often have one screw-up child to whom they just can’t say no. Helen is sick and tired of Bubba, but Ruth may not be.

Second, if Bubba really is entering without permission from Ruth, I asked Helen to figure out how much heartache can Ruth handle if Bubba goes back to jail because Helen snitched on Bubba and got him arrested for trespassing?

Families bring drama. Know your boundaries.

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