Many people just assume that their driveway is private property because it is so close to their home, but it’s not that simple. There are a number of things that you will need to understand with regards to this legal issue. Trespassing is a major concern for a lot of people, and it will benefit you to know the facts.
Does a Driveway Constitute Private Property?
A person’s driveway is typically regarded as private property from a legal standpoint.
It is part of the owner’s property and not a public space like a park.
Your driveway is therefore afforded all of the benefits of the fourth amendment that apply to the inside of our home or vehicle.
It is also means that you can have strangers who come onto your driveway trespassed, as we’ll discuss below.
Trespassing on a Person’s Driveway
In order for a person who comes onto your driveway to be charged with trespassing, intent must be established.
Unless you have previous told the person they are not welcome, it is impossible to determine their intent.
It is possible that the person entered onto your property by mistake, which is not illegal.
Gates and Fences
In the case of an open driveway with no gate or fence, any person can drive or walk onto it without facing legal ramifications.
That is until the owner of the property instructs the person to leave.
When a person makes the decision to hop over a gate or fence in front of someone’s home, they are most likely breaking the law.
This is something that most states and jurisdictions would agree on.
“No Trespassing” Signs
Depending on the state you live in, a person can be charged with trespassing if they come onto your driveway despite there being a “no trespassing” sign.
Each state has different laws pertaining to this type of signage.
There may be certain requirements regarding the size and placement of the sign that you’ll want to know about.
You always have the option of taking a trespasser to court if you want to sue them.
This is an especially good option to utilize if the trespasser damaged or destroyed a part of your property or something on it.
While you can sue a person for simply trespassing, your case will be much stronger if something was damaged or stolen.
You’ll need to keep in mind that in order to take someone to civil court for trespassing, intent must be established.
This usually means having to prove that the person has been on your property before and was warned not to come back.
It could also be the case that they refused to go after you told them to leave, and you had to call the police.
Vehicles Blocking Your Driveway
If you find a strange vehicle blocking your driveway or even parked on it, you usually call the police and have it towed.
While the person might not be charged with trespassing, they could receive a citation from police.
You should avoid having it towed directly, instead choosing to call the non-emergency police number for your area.
This will help you avoid any potential legal complications while seeing that the offending party is held fully responsible for their actions.
Rights and Limitations of Law Enforcement
Police are limited in their ability to search and seize items on personal property, including an individual’s driveway.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that vehicles parked in a residential driveway cannot be searched without a warrant.
They cannot search in or around the vehicle if it is parked in your driveway.
The 2018 ruling stemmed from a case where police went onto a man’s property because they suspected him of having a stolen motorcycle.
An officer looked under a tarp to find the stolen motorcycle and arrested the man.
It was deemed an illegal search due to the absence of a warrant, and the man was released from custody.
Law enforcement officials can, however, come onto your property without a warrant if something illegal is in plain sight.
This applies to both illegal items and actions. This is the only case in which a warrant is not needed to arrest someone based on something illegal being on their property.
Increasing Your Privacy
There are many different things you can do increase the level of privacy around your home, including:
- Put up a fence: If you want to increase your privacy at home, the best thing you can do is to have a gate or fence installed in front of or around it. In many states, this will make your driveway private property. Throw up a “No Trespassing” sign on the gate or fence just for good measure. You can even have an electrified fence installed for additional security.
- Surveillance cameras: Having surveillance cameras installed at the front of your driveway is something else to consider. This will deter many trespassers, and it will serve as solid evidence if someone does come onto your property.
- Plant hedges: In addition to a gate in front of your driveway, you can plant tall hedges around it. This will make it more difficult for would-be trespassers to get in.
How to get Someone Trespassed
If someone refuses to leave your driveway after you have instructed them to do so, they can be charged with trespassing.
In this situation, the best thing you can do is to call the police.
If the person is still there when they arrive, officers will remove them from your property. They will likely ask you if you wish to press charges against the person.
You should never attempt to escalate the situation after a stranger refuses to leave. Just let the police handle it.
The fact is that while a person’s driveway is generally considered to be private property, it is not necessarily illegal for someone to walk onto it.
Once you have told a person to leave your property, they cannot come back without facing criminal charges.
Placing a gate or fence as well as proper signage at the front of your driveway is a good idea.
This can help deter unwanted visitors, and make for a solid case when someone does trespass.