Criminal trespass is usually a misdemeanor offense in Texas that is usually punishable by fines and may involve possible jail time. Some alleged offenders are charged with this crime even though they thought they were legally entitled to be on the property.
The kind of property that an alleged offender entered often dictates the classification of the offense. Certain areas have specific definitions under state law, and alleged offenders are allowed to exercise certain affirmative defenses.
Denton Criminal Trespass Lawyer
If you or your loved one was arrested for criminal trespass in the greater Denton area, make sure that you have legal counsel before going to court. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy can provide an aggressive legal defense.
Our firm will help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case that results in the fewest possible consequences. Our attorneys will discuss your rights as soon as you call (940) 222-8004 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.
Criminal Trespass Charges in Denton
Texas Penal Code § 30.05(a) establishes that a person commits criminal trespass if they enter or remain on or in the property of another party without effective consent and the alleged offender had notice that entry was forbidden or received notice to depart but failed to do so. Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05(b), there are definitions provided for a dozen terms relating to criminal trespass:
- Entry — The intrusion of the entire body.
- Notice — Oral or written communication by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner; fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock; a sign or signs posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably 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; 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 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; or the visible presence on the property of a crop grown for human consumption that is under cultivation, in the process of being harvested, or marketable if harvested at the time of entry.
- Shelter Center — As defined under Human Resources Code § 51.002, a program that is operated by a public or private nonprofit organization and provides comprehensive residential and nonresidential services to victims of family violence.
- Forest Land — Land on which the trees are potentially valuable for timber products.
- Agricultural Land — As defined under Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 75.001, land that is located in this state and that is suitable for use in production of plants and fruits grown for human or animal consumption, or plants grown for the production of fibers, floriculture, viticulture, horticulture, or planting seed; forestry and the growing of trees for the purpose of rendering those trees into lumber, fiber, or other items used for industrial, commercial, or personal consumption; or domestic or native farm or ranch animals kept for use or profit.
- Superfund Site — A facility that is on the National Priorities List established under Section 105 of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. Section 9605) or is listed on the state registry established under Health and Safety Code § 361.181.
- Critical Infrastructure Facility — One of the following, if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders: A chemical manufacturing facility; a refinery; an electrical power generating facility, substation, switching station, electrical control center, or electrical transmission or distribution facility; a water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station; a natural gas transmission compressor station; a liquid natural gas terminal or storage facility; a telecommunications central switching office; a port, railroad switching yard, trucking terminal, or other freight transportation facility; a gas processing plant, including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas; or a transmission facility used by a federally licensed radio or television station.
- Protected Freshwater Area — As defined under Parks and Wildlife Code § 90.001, the portion of the bed, bottom, or bank of any navigable river or stream that lies at or below the gradient boundary of the river or stream (term does not include that portion of a bed, bottom, or bank that lies below tidewater limits).
- Recognized State — Another state with which the attorney general of this state, with the approval of the governor of this state, negotiated an agreement after determining that the other state has firearm proficiency requirements for peace officers and fully recognizes the right of peace officers commissioned in this state to carry weapons in the other state.
- Recreational Vehicle Park — As defined under Water Code § 13.087, a commercial property that is designed primarily for recreational vehicle transient guest use and for which fees for site service connections for recreational vehicles, as defined by Transportation Code § 522.004(b), are paid daily, weekly, or monthly.
- Residential Land — Real property improved by a dwelling and zoned for or otherwise authorized for single-family or multifamily use.
- Institution of Higher Education — As defined under Education Code § 61.003, any public technical institute, public junior college, public senior college or university, medical or dental unit, public state college, or other agency of higher education as defined in this section.
Texas Penal Code § 30.05(d)(3) establishes that criminal trespass is a Class A misdemeanor if the alleged offense is committed in a habitation or a shelter center, on a Superfund site, or on or in a critical infrastructure facility, the alleged offense is committed on or in property of an institution of higher education and the alleged offender has previously been convicted of criminal trespass relating to entering or remaining on or in property of an institution of higher education or an offense under Education Code § 51.204(b)(1) relating to trespassing on the grounds of an institution of higher education, or the alleged offender carries a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.
Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05(d)(2), criminal trespass is a Class C misdemeanor when the alleged offender trespasses on agricultural land and within 100 feet of the boundary of the land, or on residential land and within 100 feet of a protected freshwater area. All other criminal trespass offenses are Class B misdemeanors.
It is also important to note that Texas Penal Code § 30.06 establishes the crime of trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun. It is a Class C misdemeanor if a license holder carries a concealed handgun on property of another without effective consent and received notice that entry on the property by a license holder with a concealed handgun was forbidden.
Criminal Trespass Penalties in Texas
The sentence a person receives if convicted of criminal trespass will depend on how their alleged crime was graded. The statutory maximums are as follows:
- Class C Misdemeanor — Fine of up to $500.
- Class B Misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail and/or fine of up to $2,000.
- Class A Misdemeanor — Up to one year in jail and/or fine of up to $4,000.
Criminal Trespass Defenses in Denton County
Texas Penal Code § 30.05(d-2) provides that when the state seeks an increase in punishment provided by Texas Penal Code § 30.05(d)(3)(B) relating to alleged offenses committed on or in property of an institution of higher education by previous offenders, the alleged offender can raise the issue as to whether, at the time of the instant offense or the previous offense, they were engaging in speech or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 8, Article I of the Texas Constitution. Similarly, Texas Penal Code § 30.05(h) also establishes that when the state seeks the increase in punishment provided by Texas Penal Code § 30.05(d)(3)(A)(iii), the alleged offender can raise the issue as to whether the alleged offender entered or remained on or in a critical infrastructure facility as part of a peaceful or lawful assembly, including an attempt to exercise rights guaranteed by state or federal labor laws. When an alleged offender proves the issue in the affirmative by a preponderance of the evidence, the increase in punishment will not apply.
Texas Penal Code § 30.05(e) establishes that is a defense to prosecution for criminal trespass that the alleged offender at the time of the offense was a firefighter or emergency medical services personnel acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty under exigent circumstances, a person who was an employee or agent of an electric utility, a telecommunications provider, a video service provider or cable service provider, a gas utility, a pipeline used for the transportation or sale of oil, gas, or related products, or an electric cooperative or municipally owned utility, performing a duty within the scope of that employment or agency, or a person who was employed by or acting as agent for an entity that had, or that the person reasonably believed had, effective consent or authorization provided by law to enter the property, and performing a duty within the scope of that employment or agency.
Under Texas Penal Code § 30.05(f), it is also a defense to prosecution for criminal trespass that the basis on which entry on the property or land or in the building was forbidden is that entry with a handgun was forbidden and the person was carrying a license issued under Subchapter H, Chapter 411 of the Government Code to carry a handgun and a handgun in a concealed manner or in a shoulder or belt holster.
Texas Penal Code § 30.05(g) states that it is a defense to prosecution for criminal trespass that the alleged offender entered a railroad switching yard or any part of a railroad switching yard and was at that time an employee or a representative of employees exercising a right under the Railway Labor Act.
Criminal Trespass Resources in Denton County
Trespassing | Texas Parks and Wildlife | Texas.gov — The mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is “To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” Find answers to frequently asked questions about trespassing on this section of the website. You can also find additional information about private land management.
Texas Landowner Duty to Trespasser on Property – Texas A&M AgriLife — The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is an education agency with a statewide network of professional educators, trained volunteers, and county offices. As this article notes, the only duty that a landowner owes to a trespasser is not to intentionally injure that person or to act with “gross negligence.” The article discusses the concept of gross negligence.
Find a Criminal Trespass Attorney in Denton, TX | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
Were you or your loved one arrested for criminal trespass in Denton or a surrounding area of Texas? Do not think that pleading guilty will not have later consequences.