It’s not unusual to enter someone’s property without an invitation. Perhaps you’re stopping by to drop off something, or perhaps you want to speak with the owner of the property. Or, perhaps you’re selling something and would like to see if the owners would be interested in what you have to sell.
When someone has a decent amount of land, you may enter their property without realizing it. Maybe you were taking a hike, or perhaps you were exploring a new trail with your dog.
As you’re quietly talking a walk, all of a sudden you’re confronted by an angry property owner who is yelling at you saying, “You’re on private property” or “Get off my property, you’re trespassing!” If he’s passionate enough, he may even have a shotgun, which is not unheard of in rural areas.
Is it against the law to walk on someone else’s property without an invitation, and are you actually committing a crime? Under Texas Penal Code §30.05, Criminal Trespass, you could be breaking the law but it depends on the circumstances of the case.
Criminal Trespass Under the Texas Penal Code
Under Sec. 30.05, criminal trespass is more than stepping foot on another person’s property. One way that you can commit criminal trespass is to enter someone’s property even though there’s a sign posted prominently that says, “No trespassing.”
Another way to commit the offense is to “remain” on someone’s property after they have asked or ordered you to leave. Still, there are more ways that you can be directed to leave, it doesn’t have to be a verbal direction; it can be written as well.
Here are some of the ways that a property owner can give notice that someone must stay off or depart from their property:
- An oral communication from the property owner or someone acting on the owner’s behalf
- A fence that was designed to keep intruders out or livestock in
- A sign posted on the property indicating that entrance is forbidden
- A sign posted at the entrance of a building forbidding entrance
Criminal trespass under Sec. 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code is usually charged as a Class B misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine up to $2,000, and up to 6 months in jail. If the person trespassed on agricultural land and they are caught within 100 feet of the land, they are guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.
However, under certain circumstances (e.g. when the offender has a deadly weapon), criminal trespass can be prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.