How to File a Trespassing Restraining Order

By Patrick Gleeson, Ph. D., Registered Investment Adv ; Updated April 18, 2017

Post a no-trespassing notice, forbid the trespasser entry to your property in writing, then fill out a form provided by your police department, sheriff or district attorney's office to put a restraining order or similar notice forbidding trespassing on your property.

What Constitutes Trespassing?

Every state has laws that define trespassing. Although each jurisdiction has slightly different forms and procedures, they all have similar definitions of trespass and ways of getting protection from the trespasser.

In Texas, for example, the penal code defines trespassing as entering or remaining on the property of another without effective consent. Two requirements are necessary for a trespass: The party had notice that the entry was forbidden and received notice to depart, but failed to do so.

Other states define trespassing similarly, with three qualifying elements: absence of consent to enter, notice that entry is forbidden and failure to depart after being told to do so.

Notice That Entry Is Forbidden

The simplest way to provide the required notice forbidding entry is to put up a sign. In most states a "No Trespassing" statement alone is sufficient. Whether or not state law requires it, the sign can refer directly to the code that authorizes the notice, such as this California sign: "No Trespassing. Trespass after notice violates Cal. St. Penal Code Sec. 602.8."

Most sign shops and office supply stores have preprinted, weatherproof signs available. Most states require the signs to be prominently or conspicuously displayed, either at points-of-entry or at specified intervals along the perimeter of the property, such as every 100 feet.

Telling the Trespasser to Leave

Every state mandates similar ways to tell someone to leave your property. You can do so verbally, which has the advantage of informing the trespasser immediately, but doesn't always provide proof of notice. In some states you can provide evidence with a cellphone video.

Usually, the better way of telling a trespasser that entry is forbidden remains a certified or registered letter with proof of delivery. Many jurisdictions, such as Highland County, Florida, provide a form letter for this purpose and instructions for filling it out and delivering it.

Obtaining the Temporary Restraining Order

After notifying the trespassing party that entry is forbidden, notify the appropriate legal authority of that notification. You can obtain a temporary restraining order from the district attorney's office, but in some jurisdictions also from the police or sheriff's department.

These offices usually offer Temporary Restraining Order forms and instructions for filling them out, both online and at the district attorney's office. The process is relatively uncomplicated: Identify yourself, your property and the identity of the trespasser on the form. Some states ask for proof that the notice against trespassing was posted and/or that the trespasser has been warned against trespassing, but many do not. Most TROs remain in place for limited periods of time. Because most trespassing situations require the order to remain in place indefinitely, some states, like South Carolina, have a slightly different order that stays in place until you ask for it to be removed.

About the Author

Patrick Gleeson received a doctorate in 18th century English literature at the University of Washington. He served as a professor of English at the University of Victoria and was head of freshman English at San Francisco State University. Gleeson is the director of technical publications for McClarie Group and manages an investment fund. He is a Registered Investment Advisor.