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Criminal Trespass

Criminal Trespass is a misdemeanor crime in Texas that essentially involves being somewhere you’re not supposed to be. A Criminal Trespass charge can sometimes arise in a situation where a you enter the wrong house by mistake or when you cross through someone else’s property on the way to another location. A prosecuting attorney might also allege that Criminal Trespass occurred when a person violates a “stay away order” put in place by a court or refuses to leave a location when the property owner tells them to do so.

Learn more about the Criminal Trespass offense below, or if you have been arrested for Criminal Trespass, please contact us for a free consultation at (888) 239-9305 or contact us online to schedule a meeting in our Dallas office.

What is the criminal trespass offense in Texas?

The Criminal Trespass offense is defined in Section 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code as follows:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person enters or remains 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 the person:

(1) had notice that the entry was forbidden; or

(2) received notice to depart but failed to do so.

Therefore, you can violate the criminal trespass law only if you had some kind of proper notice (this is explained in more detail below). The law also requires that the property belongs to someone else and that you did not have something called “effective consent.”

What does it mean to “enter” a property?

The Texas Penal Code defines entry as the “intrusion of the entire body”. This means, in the state of Texas, that you must be completely on the property, or on or in a vehicle or building. For example, reaching into someone’s car with your arm is not sufficient for a charge of criminal trespass. Going inside a building, sitting inside a car, or jumping a fence onto the property of someone else would be considered an “entry” under the law.

How do I know if I have proper notice? What is effective consent?

Section 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code lists all the ways that notice can be given:

  • An oral or written communication from the owner or a person with the authority of the owner. This means that if you have received a letter, telephone call, email, or have been verbally told by the owner that you are not allowed on the property that you have been given proper notice.
  • Fencing or other enclosure that is clearly designed to keep people out or livestock in. Security fences or barbed wire might be examples of fencing obviously designed to keep people out.
  • Signs that are reasonably likely to be noticed that indicate that entry is forbidden. For example, no trespassing or keep out signs posted at regular intervals on a fence, or a no entry sign posted on a gate would fall under this category.
  • Purple paint marks on trees that meet specific criteria. These occur mostly in large undeveloped properties in woodland areas.
  • Visible crops that appear to be grown for consumption, or in the process of being harvested. For example, a farm without a fence but with rows of corn would be considered as having proper notice.

How can I be charged with criminal trespass?

You can be charged with Criminal Trespass if a police officers see you entering or staying in a location you have notice to not be in, or if they believe you may have committed the offense. Many instances involve a property owner or a neighbor notifying the police of the alleged offense. You may be charged with the offense if you were seen on video entering the property. You may be charged with the offense even if you were originally on the property with permission, but that permission was revoked or has expired.

What is the penalty for a criminal trespass conviction? What happens if I plead guilty to a charge of criminal trespass?

Under the Texas Penal Code, a Criminal Trespass conviction in Dallas County, Tarrant County, and across the state of Texas is generally a Class B misdemeanor, but depending on the unique circumstances of the situation the penalty may be adjusted. If the alleged offense occurs in an agricultural area within 100 feet of the boundary or in a residential area within 100 feet of a freshwater river or stream, the misdemeanor is dropped to a Class C misdemeanor. Should the alleged trespass occur in specially designated shelter area, a ‘critical infrastructure’ location (such as a power plant, water treatment plan, or train yard), or if the alleged trespass is committed while carrying a deadly weapon (which includes firearms or any weapon that is reasonably capable of causing death or injury), the penalty is raised to a Class A misdemeanor. Learn more about what penalties the different classes of misdemeanor carry

How can I get a criminal trespass charge dismissed?

Every case is unique, and in order to get a Criminal Trespass case dismissed, you should hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you in court. The most common defenses to a criminal trespass charge are to show that you had effective consent, that notice was not proper, that a defendant actually owned the property that he or she is accused of entering without consent.

As a criminal lawyer, I work on your behalf to conduct an investigation and examine the evidence to determine if the arrest was illegal or if there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction. In addition, there is a possibility that the state’s attorneys might agree to a dismissal under certain terms. If we are unable to get your case dismissed, then we may have to go to trial if you do not want the conviction on your record. If the state’s attorneys are not willing to dismiss the case, then the only way to keep the conviction off your record entirely is through a Not Guilty verdict. We provide custom tailored defense strategies for our clients, and will work with you to find the best strategy to get you the best possible outcome.