Trespassing is a complex criminal law in Texas as you can trespass not only over the residential property but also parks and wildlife land that is federally owned. For instance, there are rivers in Texas that you are not allowed to walk on or be near due to it being considered trespassing.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife states that one may use the bed and, to a limited degree, the banks of a navigable stream. However, the use of private property adjacent to the stream can be criminal trespass. A navigable stream is a stream where the public may boat, swim, fish, camp, and in general carry on any legal activity.
Seriousness Of Trespassing
Although trespassing does not seem like a serious crime, it is a crime nonetheless to protect the public from dangerous places. As of 2023, according to the rail safety education, there have been 141 total casualties that have stemmed from trespassing, with 57 of them leading to death and 84 being lucky to only have sustained injuries.
Railroad trespassing is a common occurrence according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration as recreational vehicles like ATVs, motorcycles, and buggies tend to disturb the soil around the tracks that lead to erosion. Railroad tracks have also become popular locations for weddings, graduation, and regular photo shoots. They are not only stunning but also dangerous and are warned by the administration that it is highly illegal.
Another mainstream trend is exploring abandoned buildings. Not only is this illegal but also dangerous as the buildings can be deteriorating. Floors can break underneath you as well as the possibility of the roof caving in and trapping you there. Old factories can still harbor dangerous chemicals and toxins that you can touch or breathe in.
With the increase of trespassing being glamorized as off-the-grid exploring, many associations and public safety groups have tried to educate and deter trespassing. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has put out campaigns to remind the public that exploring mines whether they are abandoned or active can be deadly.
In Texas, there is the castle doctrine that is used to deter trespassers from entering unknown property due to the fact that the owner may wield a gun. But it is important to note that deadly force must be a last resort when you are protecting your property.
Texas Criminal Trespassing
The Texas Penal Code states that a person commits this offense if they enter or remain on or on the property of another, this includes residential land, agricultural land, a recreational vehicle park, a building, an aircraft, or other vehicles, without effective consent. And the person had noticed that the entry was forbidden or received notice to depart but failed to do so.
Trespassing Notices On Property
Notices are defined as oral or written communication by the owner or someone with the apparent authority to act for the owner. The fencing or other enclosure is obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock.
A sign or signs posted on the property or at the entrance to the building are reasonable, as they are likely to come to the attention of intruders, indicating that entry is forbidden.
The placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property provided that the marks are vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width. Or are placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet from the ground or more than five feet from the ground. And that they are placed at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart on forest land or 1,000 feet apart on land other than forest land.
Also, government property that has been fenced in or otherwise blocked and obviously does not allow unauthorized access such as critical infrastructure, a protected freshwater area, chemical plants, or freight transportation is considered equivalent to having a no trespassing sign. Agricultural land is automatically considered a forbidden entry, as you can visibly see the presence of crops grown for human consumption.
Criminal Trespass Charge: Defense
If a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel were acting in a lawful discharge of an official duty under urgent circumstances. Also, a person that is employed or an agent of an electric utility, telecommunications company, cable or video service provider, a gas utility, and is performing a duty within their scope of employment or agency.
If the trespass has occurred in a non-threatening or even proven it was accidental, then the charges can be reduced or possible infractions. Infractions are still subjected to punishment by the court, but may not appear on your permanent record.
Also proving that you had effective consent to be there, if the notice was not properly displayed or that the property you trespassed you actually own and the other party is accusing you of trespassing.
Penalties Against Trespassing
Depending on the property type that is crossed and if you are armed or not, play into the severity of the crime. The most common instances of trespassing are punished as a class B misdemeanor which consists of confinement in jail for up to 180 days, fines that do not exceed $2,000, or the punishment can be both. If you are trespassing on agricultural land within 100 feet of the boundary of the land or residential land within 100 feet of a protected freshwater area. This offense of trespassing is considered a Class C misdemeanor which is punishable and can include a fine that does not exceed $500.
A class A misdemeanor is applicable if the offense of trespassing is committed on a critical infrastructure structure, shelter center, or superfund site. Examples of this are chemical manufacturing facilities like a refinery, electrical power plants, and more. The shelters mentioned consist of women's shelters or family violence shelters, and superfund sites are treatment centers or waste disposal plants.
Or any higher educational institute and the person has had more than one conviction, or if they carried a deadly weapon on them during the offense. This trespassing is punishable by jail for up to one year, fines that are up to $4,000, or both confinement and fines.
Who To Contact To Report Trespassing
You are able to call the local police or the local game warden about the alleged offense that had occurred. If possible, hand any and all evidence over, such as a video of the offense occurring if possible. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to contact and file a report with the police. The police and game warden may assist the landowners with the criminal process on how to get started. Police may even be able to remove unruly guests at a party that they were previously invited to.
Can You Sue For Trespassing?
In order to sue for trespassing, the plaintiff must prove that the action of trespassing caused injury to them. The plaintiff must also establish that the property in question does belong to them, whether my legal title or lawful right to possess that property. There is a statute of limitation on how long you can wait to sue someone for trespassing damages; the limitation is two years. After those two years are up, you are no longer allowed to sue the other person.
Damages are determined if they are permanent or temporary. Permanent damages are considered a loss of fair market value, while the cost to repair or restore is considered temporary damage. Although if the temporary damage cost to restore or repair exceeds the property's value, that is no longer economically feasible. Then it may be considered permanent and damages are then awarded for only the loss of market value.
Need Help? Call Us Now!
Do not forget that when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We will work and be in your best interest for you and we will obtain the best possible outcome that can benefit you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and how to defend your case best. We can help you step by step through the criminal process.
Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.
Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that can benefit you. Also, here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, you are given a consultation at your convenience. You may choose to have your appointment via Zoom, google meet, email, or an in-person appointment; and we will provide you with as much advice and information as possible so you can have the best possible result in your case.
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