The doctrine of adverse possession discourages disuse of property. According to the doctrine, if property was abandoned, and someone else "squatted" on it for a number of years, the squatter could gain control over the land. If the squatter abandons the property for a period, or if the rightful owner effectively removes the squatter's access even temporarily during the statutory period, or gives his permission, the squatter loses the benefit of that possession. If that squatter later retakes possession of the property, that squatter must, in order to acquire title, remain on the property for a full statutory period after the date on which the squatter retook possession. However, one squatter may pass along continuous possession to another squatter, known as "tacking", until the adverse possession period is complete. In the United States, squatting laws vary from state to state and city to city.
Sadly, the folks contemplating squatting usually are not that astute or smart - but likely have drug or alcohol or mental illness problems. Most "squats" are abandoned houses or buildings that are not up-to-code nor safe or desirable places to live. Still others subscribe to weird "tax protester" or "sovereign nation" sites and philosophies, and call attention to themselves by filing bogus "adverse possession deeds" with the county clerk's office - which often serves to alert law enforcement and gets their ass tossed out - and into jail (well, at least now they have three hots, a squat, and a cot!):
So in July 2011, after looking around, the couple found a suitable home in Granby, changed the locks and moved in. (The owner had let the property go into foreclosure and moved to Hawaii.)
This worked out fine for Bruno and Gutierrez-Vite until October 2011, when, based on further advice from their consultant, they prepared and recorded a document they called "Affidavit of Adverse Possession." The Fraser/Winter Park Police Department got wind of this document and, on Oct. 26, paid a visit to the property.
The police gave the couple a week to move out. When they didn't, the police changed the locks and posted "no trespassing" and "no occupancy" signs at the property.
Instead of moving out, the couple recorded other creative, bogus documents they thought would further their claim to a right to possess the property. Not surprisingly, their arrests followed.
At his trial, Bruno tried to defend himself by arguing that the law of adverse possession allowed him to do what he did. The trial judge quickly concluded this was nonsense and refused to allow this defense to be presented to the jury.