In Texas, a trespasser who enters another’s property without permission can be charged with criminal trespass only if he knew that entry was forbidden. Sometimes this will be obvious, such as when a private residence is enclosed by a fence and a locked gate. Other times, it will be less obvious, such as where there's no clear boundary or warning signs. The law in Texas is fairly strict about the need for proper notice and has clear rules about the posting of "no trespassing” signs.
What Is Criminal Trespass?
In Texas, a person commits criminal trespass if he enters someone else’s property without that person’s permission, having received notice that the entry was forbidden. The last part of this definition is important. It’s there to prevent an accidental trespasser from becoming criminalized, such as when an innocent hiker strays off the path and onto someone’s private land. If there’s no warning notice, the trespasser cannot be accused of committing a crime.
What Constitutes Notice of Trespass?
As to how a trespasser is given notice, this depends on the type of property in question. Generally, a Texas landowner can give notice in one of four ways:
- By telling the trespasser to get off the private land.
- By erecting fencing around the land that’s obviously designed to keep intruders out.
- By posting a “no trespassing” sign in a prominent place that’s reasonably likely to come to the attention of potential trespassers.
- By placing purple paint marks on posts or trees on the property.
Purple paint trespass warnings carry the same weight as traditional "no tespassing" signs. They must be vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide and situated at about eye level, between 3 and 5 feet off the ground. They must be placed at easily seen locations no more than 100 feet apart on forest land or 1,000 feet apart on other property. The law is designed to spare rural landowners from having to continually replace signs that end up being stolen, overgrown with foliage or damaged by the elements.
Some types of land do not need a warning system. For instance, if the land is obviously being used to grow, cultivate or harvest crops, any intruder is deemed to have notice that the land is private property and they shouldn't be intruding on it.
Texas "No Trespassing" Notices
Compared to some other states, Texas is not too prescriptive when it comes to posting “no trespassing” signs. There’s no requirement to have the sign professionally made, and there are no size, color or font requirements. The state does not dictate the size of the sign or even where it should be posted.
The only requirements are that the sign is clearly intended to keep intruders out and is placed somewhere an intruder is reasonably likely to see it. In other words, a legible sign that contains the words no trespassing; private property; do not enter; or similar language placed at the entrance to a property or at reasonable intervals around the property’s perimeter should do the trick.
Not receiving adequate notice is a defense to a criminal trespass charge. So if a trespasser can show that the warning sign had fallen down, was illegible; broken or weather-beaten; covered by tree branches; or there simply weren’t enough signs – for example, there was a sign at the front of the property, but the trespasser intruded through the back, then he may be able to escape criminal conviction. It’s up to the landowner to ensure that the signage meets the legal requirements and is sufficient to warn off anyone attempting to enter the property.
Read More: Penalties for Trespassing in Texas
In Texas, landowners must erect fencing, post clear "no trespassing" signs or use purple paint warnings to warn intruders off their land.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.