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When is trespassing on an infrastructure facility considered a felony?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Felony Charges |

Critical infrastructure like water treatment facilities, power plants and telecommunication towers are closed off to the public for good reason. These facilities are responsible for many of the modern conveniences everyone enjoys, so it’s important to protect them from tampering.

Entering a critical infrastructure facility without permission is a criminal offense in Missouri. The offense is usually a misdemeanor. But depending on the trespasser’s actions, the offense can easily become a felony.

Intentional damage leads to graver offenses

According to Missouri law, if a person trespasses on critical infrastructure property and purposefully damages or tampers with the equipment in the facility, officials can charge them with damage of a critical infrastructure. This is a separate offense from the act of trespassing and is a Class D felony.

Even if a person has yet to cause damage to any equipment but security caught them trespassing with the intent to cause damage, they can face a Class A misdemeanor charge.

If the person causes significant damage to the facility – enough to disrupt the utility’s service – they can also face another charge of tampering in the first degree. This offense is another Class D felony.

The penalties

For a conviction for trespassing on critical infrastructure with the intent to damage equipment, the convicted faces up to a year in prison and as much as $2,000 in fines.

But if a court convicts the person of damage to a critical infrastructure or tampering in the first degree, the penalties include up to seven years of prison time and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Merely stepping foot inside a power plant, wastewater treatment facility or pump station isn’t going to lead to felony charges – but causing damage will. To face felony charges, there needs to be proof that the person damaged critical equipment needed to operate the facility. Cutting through security fences or breaking locks may be a sign of trespassing, but it’s not critical equipment. Those facing charges should understand these distinctions and their rights.