What is Criminal Trespass in Texas?
In Texas, criminal trespass charges often stem from a person entering private property without the consent of the owner or for refusing to leave a premises or property after being ordered to leave or coming back after receiving a trespass warning. There are a number of scenarios that could constitute criminal trespass. For example, you can be charged with criminal trespassing for refusing to leave a store when asked or by going on someone’s property that has a “Do Not Enter” sign posted.
Criminal trespass is defined in Texas Penal Code 30.05. It states that a person commits criminal trespass if he or she enters or remains in or on the property of another without the effective consent of the owner, and the accused:
- had notice that entry was forbidden; or
- was given notice to depart and failed to do so.
Property can include land, a residence, an apartment, an RV park, a business, an aircraft or other vehicle.
What is the Punishment for Criminal Trespassing?
Criminal Trespass is generally a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. However criminal trespass of a habitation, a shelter, or critical infrastructure facility, is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.
What Kind of “Notice” is Required for a Criminal Trespass Charge?
To be convicted of criminal trespass, the prosecutor must prove that accused had “notice” that the entry was forbidden. Under the law, notice can mean:
(A) oral or written communication by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
(B) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock;
(C) a sign or signs posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, indicating that entry is forbidden.
What Do Trees Painted in Purple Mean in Texas?
Purple paint on trees and fences basically mean “No Trespassing.” A law that was enacted in 1997 allows Texas landowners to provide notice that entry is forbidden by painting trees, posts or fences purple, as long as the purple marks are:
- vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width;
- placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet from the ground or more than five feet from the ground; and
- placed at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and no more than:
(a) 100 feet apart on forest land; or
(b) 1,000 feet apart on land other than forest land.
What are Common Defenses to Criminal Trespassing Charges?
According to the law, it is a defense to prosecution if the individual entering the property is:
- a firefighter or emergency medical services provider acting in their official duty under exigent circumstances.
- an employee or agent of an electric utility, telecommunications provider, video service provider, gas utility, pipeline, electric cooperative acting within the scope of their employment.
- a licensed handgun holder whose handgun is concealed or in a shoulder or belt holster.
What is Criminal Trespass by License Holder with an Openly Carried Handgun?
In Texas, it is against the law to openly carry a handgun on someone else’s property where it’s forbidden. This trespassing law is relatively new and can be found in Chapter 30 of the Texas Penal Code in Sec. § 30.07. The law says that a license holder commits an offense if the license holder:
- openly carries a handgun on the property of another without effective consent; and
- received notice that entry on the property by a license holder openly carrying a handgun was forbidden.
The law says a person receives notice if the owner of the property or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner provides notice to the person by oral or written communication. An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200. The punishment is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor if, after entering the property, the license holder was personally given the notice by oral communication and subsequently failed to leave.
Getting Criminal Trespass Cases Dismissed
Our attorneys often work with students and young individuals who are charged with criminal trespass. Our goal is to seek a dismissal of the charges, either through diversion program or negotiation. Contact us immediately if you’ve been charged with criminal trespass in North Texas. Almost every diversion possibility has a strict timeframe in which a first-time offender must apply. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with a Fort Worth criminal trespass lawyer.