December 8, 2022

No Trespassing Sign

When a person or group of people enters private property without the present owner’s consent, they’re committing what is called criminal trespass.

According to Texas criminal trespass laws, this offense has several stages, as well as multiple defenses that can be utilized to fight charges. 

It’s important to get acquainted with these laws in order to defend yourself against any unjust allegations. On that account, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on trespassing laws in the Lone Star State.

What Is Considered Criminal Trespassing in Texas?

As defined by the Texas Penal Code 30.05, criminal trespassing is the act of intentionally entering private property without the owner’s consent. 

Several things can fall under the category of private property, such as:

  • Residential land
  • Agricultural land
  • RV park
  • Building
  • Car
  • Aircraft
  • Other vehicles

Further, a person is considered a trespasser and has broken the law if they were asked to leave but refused to do so. 

Criminal trespass may also be charged against someone whose right to remain on the property has been terminated.

Trespass Notices in Texas

To establish criminal trespass, the prosecution must first show that the defendant was fully aware of all notices and prohibitions. But what exactly qualifies as proper notice?

There are several methods of giving a trespass notice.  

1. Direct Communication From the Owner

The owner or someone authorized to act on behalf of the owner may write to or speak with the trespassing party. 

This suggests that a text message, phone call, email, or verbal communication from the property owner informing the intruder that they aren’t welcome on the property qualifies as enough notice. 

2. Signs

A clear sign displayed in front of a property that indicates entrance is prohibited counts as reasonable notice. Some examples include “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing” signs. 

3. Purple Markings

According to the state of Texas, purple markings on trees or posts are considered viable notices. They are typically located on properties that are being developed in woodlands. 

These markings, however, must meet certain requirements to be considered legitimate notices. For example, they must be:

  • Vertical lines that are no less than eight inches long and one inch wide.
  • No less than three feet from the ground and no more than five feet from the ground.
  • Easily visible to anyone approaching the property.
  • No more than 100 feet apart on woodland properties and no more than 1,000 feet apart on non-forest lands.

4. Crops

Visible crops that are being harvested or cultivated for consumption naturally serve as a clear notice. Even if the land isn’t encircled by a fence, entry is forbidden if it includes crops that may be harmed by trespassing.

5. Fencing

Any fencing or other enclosure put up to exclude intruders or to contain livestock.

Texas Trespassing Laws: Overview

A criminal trespassing charge is issued when a defendant enters someone else’s property while aware that entry is forbidden. 

Under Texas law, there are four methods for a private property owner to provide legal notice:

  1. A verbal or written statement that forbids trespassing.
  2. A clear sign prohibiting entry.
  3. A piece of land containing crops.
  4. Visible purple paint markings on trees or posts
  5. Fencing or other enclosures

There are three penalty classifications for a criminal trespassing charge. 

  • Class A: the defendant is carrying a deadly weapon—the penalty is one year in prison and a $4,000 fine. 
  • Class B: the defendant trespassed on a prohibited property—the penalty is 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
  • Class C: the trespasser is arrested within 100 feet of agricultural land—the penalty is a $500 fine.

As per defenses, defendants usually go with one of these three:

  1. Unclear signage: notice isn’t clear enough.
  2. Public necessity: trespassing to assist the public.  
  3. Private necessity: trespassing to protect an individual.

Penalties for Trespassing in Texas

According to the Texas Penal Code, criminal trespassing is automatically considered a class B misdemeanor. This has a penalty of 180 days in prison and a $2,000 fine. 

However, there are a few circumstances in which criminal trespassing may be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor. 

These instances include: 

  • The trespasser is carrying a lethal weapon capable of causing injury or death.
  • Trespassing on a property where the defendant has a prior criminal conviction.

That said, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in prison along with a $4,000 fine. On the other hand, criminal trespassing can be reduced to a Class C misdemeanor. 

For instance, if a person trespasses on agricultural land (farm or ranch) and is arrested within 100 feet of the property’s perimeter, the court then downgrades the offense to a Class C misdemeanor. This is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Defenses to Trespassing Charges in Texas

There are trespassing protections that apply to public workers, such as firefighters, emergency medical responders, utility workers, and other employees of the service industry who typically enter residences regularly. 

If they’re charged with criminal trespassing, it would be simple to prove that they were merely on the job. This, of course, depends on the nature and the time of day of the alleged trespass. 

Aside from public workers, if you’ve been wrongfully charged with criminal trespassing, one of these three defenses is your best bet.

Unclear Signage 

What if you didn’t receive adequate notice to depart? This takes us back to the signage. 

For example, you come across what appears to be an open area near a lake or pond. You settle down to enjoy the sun and maybe do some fishing. 

The next thing you know, you’re being arrested for trespassing. It turns out that some properties have some form of sign, but it’s hardly visible and sometimes even in obscure locations. 

In this case, a good attorney may get your case dismissed entirely.

Public Necessity 

This protection works best in times of crisis, such as a natural disaster. Public necessity constitutes that you only trespassed to assist the public during an emergency.

Private Necessity 

While not the most powerful defense against a criminal trespassing charge, private necessity is a feasible option for a person who trespassed on private property to protect someone else from physical harm or death.

Get Help For Your Defense Against Criminal Trespass Charge

Criminal trespassing is simply being somewhere you shouldn’t be, and the penalties are to be taken seriously. Even if it was an unintentional mistake, it can be difficult to get out of. 

Hire the help of a Criminal Defense Attorney. Call 713-470-4097 and get in touch with The Napier Law Firm today!