As experienced attorneys, we often get questions such as what is criminal trespassing under Texas law, the difference between trespassing and criminal trespassing, who can issue a criminal trespass warning in Texas and how, as well as what kind of punishment a defendant can expect.
To help our readers better understand criminal trespassing, in this blog post we explain what criminal trespassing is, and answer some of the commonly asked questions about it.
What is Criminal Trespassing Under Texas Penal Code?
According to Texas Penal Code, criminal trespassing encompasses situations in which a person enters someone else’s property (including an aircraft and other kinds of vehicles) despite a clear warning that entry is prohibited.
It also refers to situations in which one remains on another person’s grounds or refuses to leave after being warned to leave.
Difference Between Trespassing and Criminal Trespassing
The difference between trespassing and criminal trespassing lies in the fact that in the case of the latter a person consciously enters and stays on another person’s property.
However, the law commonly does not distinguish between situations in which someone has knowingly and unknowingly trespassed, meaning that both will be tried as criminal trespassing – even if the defendant has not seen or heard the notice.
Who Can Issue a Criminal Trespass Warning in Texas?
A criminal trespass warning in Texas can be issued by the owner of the property or someone acting on the owner’s behalf, such as a representative or attorney.
The warning can also be issued by a police officer, a neighbor, or the owner’s tenant.
How to Issue a Criminal Trespass Warning in Texas?
The notice can be issued in the form of:
- written or oral notice from the owner or someone acting on their behalf;
- physical enclosure such as a fence;
- a clear sign stating that entry is forbidden and posted at a visible and accessible place;
- purple paint marks of appropriate size and placement on trees or poles spaced up to 100 feet apart on forest land or 1,000 feet apart on non-forest land;
- noticeable presence on the property of a crop cultivated, in the process of being harvested, or marketable for human consumption.
It is important to note that in case of a compromised structure such as a damaged fence or boundaries that are not clearly demarcated, the defense can prove that the trespassing was unintentional.
Criminal Trespass Punishment
Criminal trespassing comes with penalties that can leave a mark on the defendant’s life.
As a class B misdemeanor, criminal trespassing is commonly punished with a fine of up to $2,000 or 180 days of jail time.
A Class C misdemeanor includes situations in which a person carries a deadly weapon or has trespassed on someone else’s farmland, or has been found within 100 feet of a freshwater location. As such, it is penalized with a fine of up to $4,000 and a year of jail time.
Criminal trespass can escalate and be charged as burglary when a person unlawfully enters another person’s property with the intention of committing another crime, such as assault, theft, or a similar felony.
Contact GHC Law Firm if you require any assistance with a criminal trespassing case from a team of professionals.