Criminal Trespass

Criminal Trespass is a common misdemeanor offense charged under §30.05 of the Texas Penal Code. There are two basic ways to commit trespass in Texas. A citizen commits an offense if they enter or remain on or in property of another, including residential land, agricultural land, a recreational vehicle park, a building, or an aircraft or other vehicle, without effective consent, and:

-They had notice that entry was forbidden, or;

-They receive notice to depart but fail to do so. 

Many law enforcement agencies across East Texas use written trespass warnings as a preventative measure before arresting someone for trespass. The warning is not required under law, but it is a helpful tool to communicate notice. It’s hard to argue with the police when they have a warning with your signature. That said, a warning may not tell the entire story. An owner of property may have provided consent to entry after the warning was issued, nullifying the warning. This is especially true when criminal trespass arises out of a domestic or familial dispute. These interpersonal conflicts are complicated and nuanced. 

Notice can also take the form of a closed fence, a closed habitation, trespassing signs, specific placement of purple paint, or visible presence of a crop grown for human consumption. Notice is broadly defined under Texas law, and thus the police have a great deal of discretion when enforcing trespass rules. 

Most often, criminal trespass is a Class “B” misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and a $2,000 fine. However, there are two primary ways that the severity of a trespass charge may increase. 

If the trespass involves a habitation, then the charge becomes a Class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Likewise, if the trespass is committed while the accused is carrying a deadly weapon, the punishment range also increases to a Class “A” misdemeanor. 

It’s worth noting that trespass is often a smaller component of a much more serious crime. These more serious crimes carry harsh punishments and are found elsewhere in the penal code. For example, a citizen who trespasses in violation of an existing protective order will be charged pursuant to §25.07 of the penal code. A trespass followed by assault or theft may result in a burglary or robbery charge. Repeated trespassing may be the basis of a felony stalking charge under Texas law.