If you have been arrested in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas or have become the target of a criminal investigation for the offense of criminal trespass, contact Jeff Hampton with The Hampton Law Firm immediately for a free consultation to explain your legal rights and options under Texas criminal law.
Upon first glance, being arrested and charged with Criminal Trespass does not seem like a major concern. However, because Criminal Trespass is an arrestable offense, failure to resolve your case in a manner that results in a dismissal will result in an arrest record that permanently remains on your criminal record. It is critical that you hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney that has a proven track record of obtaining dismissals on criminal trespass cases and clearing the incident from your criminal record.
What Are The Elements Of Criminal Trespass In Texas?
An examination of the Texas Penal Code is necessary to understand one’s legal rights and options under Texas Law. According to Texas Penal Code, Title 7: Offenses Against Property, Section 30.05, the State of Texas, represented by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
a person commits the offense of criminal trespass 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 had notice that the entry was forbidden; or received notice to depart but failed to do so.
A critical element the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a Tarrant County jury is the notice requirement.
Under the same section of the Texas Penal Code, “Notice” means:
- 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.
Is Criminal Trespass A Felony In Texas?
No! The Texas Penal Code sets forth the possible criminal consequences of the crime of criminal trespass based upon where the act was committed. Fortunately, regardless of where the act of criminal trespass occurred, Texas does not punish criminal trespass as a felony crime.
Section 30.05(d) of Title 7 of the Texas Penal Code provides that the crime of criminal trespass, by default, is a Class B Misdemeanor. The range of punishment on a Class B Misdemeanor range from 0-180 days in Tarrant County jail and/or $0-$2,000 fine.
Texas Penal Code, Title 7, Section 30.05(d)(3) provides that the crime of criminal trespass is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor if the trespass is committed “in a habitation or a shelter center. . . or the person carries a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.” The range of punishment on a Class A Misdemeanor range from 0-1 year in Tarrant County jail and/or $0-$4,000 fine.
Defenses To Criminal Trespass Charges In Texas
Your first priority after being arrested for Criminal Trespass is to find the best criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas to protect your freedom and ensure you do not have a tainted criminal record in the future. After hiring your lawyer, you must then research Texas criminal trespass law to gain a better understanding of your possible legal defenses to prosecution. Let us examine a few common defenses that you should speak about with your criminal attorney.
Lack Of Notice That Entry Was Forbidden
The most common defense to criminal trespass is the fact that our client did not have notice that entry onto the property was forbidden. What is the most common way for a property owner to inform someone that their entry to the property is forbidden? A NO TRESPASSING sign! If a no trespassing sign is clearly posted on the edges of the property where passersby might see, the property owner has a convincing argument that notice that entry was forbidden is met under Texas law.
For example: we represented a client that was arrested for criminal trespass for being found on someone else’s property fishing on their private lake. It is true that there were a few signs on the outside permitter of the property stating, “no trespassing.” However, the route that our client entered the property was not clearly marked. At the time of the arrest, our client was clearly shocked by the police officer’s aggressive stance on him breaking the law. Our client had no idea that he was not permitted to be on the property and apologized and agreed to leave the property as soon as he was told he must leave. In fact, our client showed the police officer the exact path he took to make it to the pond and at no time was their evidence of a sign clearly indicating that entry was forbidden, as required by Texas criminal trespass law.
If the State of Texas is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the property owner provided adequate notice that entry was forbidden, the case must be dismissed, or you will be found not guilty by criminal jury.
You Had Previous Permission To Enter The Property
This scenario is a common situation that arises with criminal trespass cases. What if you previously had permission to be on a property but due to a falling out of a relationship, now the property owner has revoked that permission and the police arrest for criminal trespass?
For example: we represented a client that was arrested for criminal trespass of a habitation for going back to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment to gain access to his individual property. Our client fully intended to grab his belongings and leave. However, the ex-girlfriend claimed he was prohibited from entry and had received oral confirmation that entry was forbidden. The police arrived at the house and arrested our client claiming criminal trespass. However, at criminal court, we were able to show the prosecutor that he had previously been given permission to enter the residence just a few days earlier and he still had a key in his possession to enter the residence. We also showed that he had only arrived and taken his personal items and showed no intent to commit a crime while at the location. As a result of our criminal defense, our client’s case was dismissed because the prosecutor understood they would have a challenging time proving the elements of criminal trespass beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Notice To Depart Was Given By Someone Without Authority
What if you are told by someone to leave a property? What if that person is not the owner of the property or anyone with the authority of the owner to the property? We have seen this happen on occasion when a neighbor or friend of a property owner decides to investigate why someone is at a property and it leads to a stand off
For example: we represented a client that was arrest for criminal trespass of a habitation because he was found to be at the property by a neighbor. Originally, the neighbor was told by the property owner that he would be out of town and that the home would be empty. Little did the neighbor know, at the last minute, the property owner gave permission to our client to house sit the property while he was gone. When the neighbor saw our client at the property, he confronted him and informed him he did not have permission to be at the property and must vacate immediately. Our client refused to do so and when the property owner could not be contacted, the police arrived and took the word of the neighbor and arrested our client for criminal trespass.
In this situation, the authority to orally tell someone to depart the property was not present. The neighbor had no agency or authority to interfere with someone else’s property. As a result, we were able to successfully argue this defense to the prosecutor to negotiate a dismissal of the criminal trespass charge, thereby making our client eligible to have his arrest and charge expunged from his criminal record.
What If You Receive A Call From A Detective For Criminal Trespass?
If a property owner has claimed that you have criminally trespassed their property, there is a high probability you will receive a phone call from a detective wanting to discuss the matter in depth.
Beware! If a detective is calling you regarding a possible criminal trespass, it is for one reason – he is seeking a confession! Remember, before a detective calls you, he will have already interviewed the property owner and gathered sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for your arrest. If the interview with the property owner did not establish sufficient evidence to move forward, the detective would not call you.
The temptation is to believe that you can talk your way out of the situation with the detective by proving your innocence to the police. The problem with this situation is that when you meet with the detective, you will be subjected to interrogation-style questioning where the questions will be framed to presupposes the evidence from the property owner is the truth. The detective is trained to try to get you to admit to surrounding facts and evidence that bolsters the credibility of the witnesses favorable to the police. By answering questions in an innocent manner, you set yourself to be used by the detective to create a criminal case against you.
By hiring an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you avoid being exploited by the detective. Your criminal attorney can answer questions and provide evidence establishing your innocence, while protecting you from questioning that will only be used to attempt to make you look like you are confessing to a crime.
If you have been arrested and charged with criminal trespass in Tarrant County, your number one priority should be to locate an experienced criminal attorney that has managed numerous criminal trespass cases and is familiar with the courts and prosecutors in Tarrant County, Texas.
Although the crime of criminal trespass is classified as a misdemeanor in Texas, it is important your case is negotiated properly to ensure you serve no jail time and ensured that your arrest and charges can be cleared from your record.
If you have been arrested and charged with criminal trespass in Tarrant County, call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options under Texas law.
The Hampton Law Firm is a team of criminal defense attorneys with over 85 years of criminal law experienced and over 550 criminal jury trials in Tarrant and Dallas Counties. You need a team of criminal defense lawyers that will work tirelessly to protect your freedom and your clean criminal record. Contact Jeff Hampton at 817-826-9905.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.
This article was last updated on February 1, 2022.