If you intentionally enter a property with a posted “no trespassing” sign, or one that is designated as private property, or is fenced in or in some way clearly meant to exclude intruders, chances are you have committed the crime of criminal trespass. Property rights are almost sacred in Texas, and this includes the right to keep the uninvited or unauthorized off private property. Texas penal code 30.05 states that:
- A person commits an offense if he enters or remains on or in property, including an aircraft or other vehicle, of another without effective consent or he enters or remains in a building of another without effective consent and he/she;
- had notice that the entry was forbidden; or
- received notice to depart but failed to do so.
- Oral or written communication by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
- Fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock;
- 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;
- The placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property (the marks must be at least one inch wide and eight inches long, placed between three and five feet from the ground. In forested land, marks must be made no less than every 100 feet. On non-forested land, marks must be made no less than every 1,000 feet).
In addition to private property such as a residence, business, ranch, or agricultural land, this includes government property that does not allow unauthorized access, and fenced-in or otherwise blocked areas at power stations, freight transportation facilities, refineries, or chemical manufacturing plants, among others.
Firefighters and emergency medical technicians are not trespassing if “acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty under exigent circumstances.” Agents or employees of utility companies are not considered trespassers if they were “employed by or acting as an agent for an entity that had, or that the person reasonably believed had, effective consent or authorization provided by law to enter the property; and performing a duty within the scope of that employment or agency.”
Penalties for criminal trespass offenses in Texas
Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor crime. In most cases, it is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days. It becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant was carrying a gun or deadly weapon at the time or if there are prior criminal trespass convictions. Class A misdemeanors carry fines of up to $ 4,000 and jail time of up to one year.
Contact an experienced lawyer for a Houston trespassing defense
If you have been arrested for criminal trespassing, please contact us immediately. Harris County criminal defense attorney Andrew Williams is board certified, meaning he has the experience, skill, and know-how to help you defend against trespassing charges. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 281-358-9111 or contact us online.