New definitions of “criminal trespass” become law without the Governor’s signature

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

January 7, 2019

Pohnpei—On January 7 of this year an Act passed by the Pohnpei Legislature defining criminal trespass became law without the Governor’s signature.

Before the revision a person could only be charged with criminal trespass if they interfered with the peaceful use and possession of the property of another either “by force or by stealth”.  The sentence for that crime was imprisonment of up to one year, fine of $500, or both jail and fine.

Pohnpei Attorney General Dana Smith says he intends to put the new definitions of criminal trespass into use as it applies to government owned properties where people have been given notice to vacate but have refused to do such as at the Pohnpei Public Market property and government homes and land in the vicinity of PICS High School.  He says that though civil actions have been filed by the government in those cases, there is nothing under the law that would prohibit the government from also filing criminal proceedings and that violators risk that action under the law.

Under the new law which went into effect on January 7, there are now three separate classes of criminal trespass.  The previous definition which requires occupation “by force or by stealth” is now known as “Trespass in the Second Degree” and carries a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $600.

A person who, knowingly and without authority, enters into any part of the dwelling house or onto the property of another is guilty of “Criminal Trespass in the First Degree”.  The penalty for this newly listed crime is imprisonment of up to three months and/or a fine of up to $300.

“Aggravated Trespass” applies to people who remain within any part of the dwelling house or on the property of another, after receiving notice from the owner, rightful occupant or an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant to depart.  The penalty for violation of this law is imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1000.