Laws for Metal Detecting in Texas

Metal detector in action
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A code of ethics is important, even when applied to a hobby as seemingly innocent as metal detecting. The Austin, Texas, Metal Detecting Club's very first entry in its code of ethics is "I will always check federal, state, county and local laws before searching." Considering the absolute nature of some Texas laws regarding metal detecting, it comes as no surprise the club puts such an emphasis on knowing the law.

The Antiquities Code of Texas

Although there are no laws specifically aimed at metal detecting in Texas, the Antiquities Code of Texas specifically aims to protect exactly what metal detectors detect.

After treasure hunters searched a sunken Spanish ship off the Texas coast in the 1960s and took many artifacts, the Texas Historical Commission, or THC, sprang into action and passed the Antiquities Code of Texas. According to the THC, this code protects historical buildings and archeological sites. Under this code, any agency or person intending to disturb at least 5,000 cubic yards of earth must first notify the THC.

Cultural Features or Artifacts

According to metal detector enthusiast Frank W. Pandozzi, it is an offense to take, remove, destroy or deface any artifact or cultural feature without permit. Pandozzi explains that if a person is detecting in Texas, he cannot dig up and take anything believed to be an artifact or anything more than 100 years old. This law is waived if the detection takes place on private land and the detector is given express permission by the land owner to find artifacts.

State Parks and Schools

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, it is an offense for a person to operate a metal detector in a Texas state park unless he is authorized by permit. This also applies to national forests and federal lands, according to Broken Detector.

The legality of metal detecting on school property depends on whether or not the school is public or private. A person can use a metal detector on public school grounds unless there is a written notice displayed prohibiting it. However, private schools, colleges and academies require that a person acquires permission from the school before using a metal detector.