Texas law defines criminal trespass as entering or remaining on property without the consent of the owner or someone with authority to act on behalf of the owner. The offense is a misdemeanor and charged at varying classes depending on the facts of the case.
Criminal Trespass Defined
Texas Penal Code 30.05 specifically states that a person commits criminal trespass if they don’t have permission to be on the property and they:
- Knew they were not supposed to enter; or
- Were asked to leave
A person should reasonably know that entry on a property is forbidden if they have notice of such or were asked to leave but didn’t. According to the law, “notice” means verbal or written warnings, fencing or some other boundary marking suggesting that no one is allowed on the property, posted signs stating that entry is forbidden, or other markings signifying that entry without consent is unlawful.
For instance, suppose Travis was at a bar, became inebriated, and started behaving strangely. To ensure the safety of the other patrons, the owner asked Travis to leave, but he refused. Travis could be accused of criminal trespassing.
For a person to be charged with criminal trespass, they must fully enter the property – meaning their entire body crosses boundary lines.
Penalties for Criminal Trespass
Generally, criminal trespass is charged as a Class B misdemeanor. This classification carries a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail term of up to 180 days.
If the offense was carried out on agricultural or residential land within 100 feet of the boundary, it’s a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.
In some cases, the crime is considered more serious and is charged as a Class A misdemeanor.
A Class A misdemeanor charge is levied when the crime is carried out on a:
- Habitation or shelter center
- Superfund site
- Critical infrastructure
- Higher education campus and the person was previously convicted of this offense
Criminal trespass is also a Class A misdemeanor when the person committing the offense has a deadly weapon upon them at the time of the intrusion.
A conviction could result in up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $4,000 in fines.
Related Crime Carrying Increased Charges and Penalties
An offense somewhat related to criminal trespass but charged as a felony is burglary. Similar to criminal trespass, burglary occurs when someone gains unauthorized access to a person’s property.
Burglary is different from criminal trespass in that a person could be accused of it if any part of their body enters a building or structure. Additionally, the person engaging in the conduct must be doing so with the intent to commit or actually commit a felony, theft, or assault while in the building.
Burglary may be charged as a:
- State jail felony, which carries up to 2 years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony, which can result in up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felony, with conviction penalties including up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.