Hire an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Criminal Trespass Charges
Although the crime of criminal trespass may appear to be a fairly innocuous offense, penalties for criminal trespass in Texas generally involve jail time and fines—that’s assuming there are no aggravating circumstances involved, in which case the penalties will increase. No matter how serious your criminal trespass charges, a conviction will mean a permanent blot on your criminal record. This means that whether you are applying for a job, filling out an application to rent an apartment or applying to secure a college loan, this criminal record may come to light. Having an experienced Houston criminal trespass attorney by your side from the time the charges are leveled can make all the difference in how the remainder of your future will unfold.
Criminal Trespassing Laws in Texas
The definition of criminal trespass under Texas Penal Code §30.05 happens to be much more complex than most of us assume. While it is true that being on another’s land may be considered criminal trespass, the crime can have added dimensions. If you enter another’s property even though you are aware that entry is forbidden, then you have committed criminal trespass. Entering another’s property then refusing to leave after receiving notice to do so is also considered criminal trespass. “Notice” can occur in any number of ways such as:
- Oral or written communication on the part of the owner or someone acting on behalf of the owner can constitute notification.
- A fence or other enclosure which is clearly designed to exclude intruders—or to contain livestock—may also be considered “notice.”
- A sign posted on the person’s property at the entrance to the building or property prohibiting entry can be considered “notice” so long as that sign is reasonably likely to be noticed.
- Visible purple paint marks, properly sized and placed on trees or posts, spaced no more than 100 feet apart on forest land, or 1,000 feet apart on private land can be considered “notice.”
- A crop which is under cultivation, in the process of being harvested or one that is marketable at the time of entry should it be harvested can be considered “notice” that the property is off-limits to trespassers.
Criminal trespass can also include remaining in an RV park, a building, an aircraft or a vehicle of any type when no consent has been granted by the owner or when you received notice that entry was forbidden—yet entered despite such notice. Law enforcement personnel or public employees such as meter readers who are entering a property in order to perform a specific job duty are exempt from criminal trespass charges. Texas law on trespassing is much more extensive than it would appear; therefore ensure you have an attorney by your side who can properly interpret the law.
Penalties for Criminal Trespass in Texas
While normally a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail term of up to six months, if the trespass occurs on agricultural land and the person trespassing is apprehended within 100 ft. of the land boundaries the offense can change to a Class C misdemeanor.
Agricultural land is any land suitable for keeping farm and ranch animals or growing plants or trees. The possession of a weapon on one’s person while a criminal trespass offense is being committed can increase the offense to a Class A misdemeanor with a jail term of up to a year and a fine which can reach $4,000. The criminal trespass charges may also be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if the offense was committed in a habitation, shelter, center or critical infrastructure facility. A critical infrastructure facility can include, but is not limited to: a gas processing plant, television transmission station, water pump station, wastewater treatment plant, electrical distribution facility, an electrical substation or switching station, an electrical power generating facility, chemical manufacturing facility, trucking terminal, railroad switching yard or a telecommunications central switching office.
If the offender was in possession of a deadly weapon, the charges may be increased to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Should the charges be elevated to breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony offense, the subsequent penalties will be severely increased. In some cases criminal trespass charges can be leveled even when the person charged with the crime believed the property to be abandoned. If this is the case in your particular situation, your attorney may be able to use this information to aid in your defense. As you can see, criminal trespass Texas punishment can be significant.
Criminal Trespass Connected to a Concealed Handgun License
Texas Penal Code Section § 30.06 relates specifically to a holder of a concealed handgun license who carries that concealed handgun onto the property of another person without consent or who received notice that such entrance was forbidden, then failed to depart. Notice may be given by the owner of the property or by another person authorized to give such notice. When a concealed handgun carry is not excluded by statute for certain government entities, then an exception to the law exists. An offense of criminal trespass by a concealed handgun license carrier is a Class A misdemeanor with penalties of up to a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine.
Additional Defenses to the Crime of Criminal Trespass
In addition to believing a property to be abandoned, if the premises were open to the public and you complied with whatever conditions were imposed regarding access or remaining on the premises, your attorney may be able to use this to your advantage. If you reasonably believed you would have been given permission to enter the property in question had you asked, then this could also be used in your defense. Finally, if you were attempting to serve legal process (without entering a private residence) and can establish your entry was necessary to accomplish such process service then your attorney may ask the judge to drop your charges of criminal trespass.
Call Sullo & Sullo to Protect Your Rights and Your Future
An experienced criminal defense attorney well-versed in Texas criminal trespass laws can fight your criminal trespass charges with every available resource. It is important that you take charges of criminal trespass very seriously; the attorneys of Sullo & Sullo have comprehensive criminal defense backgrounds and will work hard to ensure that a poor outcome does not follow you for years to come. As with most criminal charges, time is definitely of the essence. Speak to a Sullo & Sullo criminal trespass attorney in Texas as soon as you have been charged with criminal trespass.